About 1,500 General Motors dealerships, that rely on old-school microfiche systems for looking up parts, are now part of an emerging market for Internet electronic parts catalogs (EPCs).

GM wants these mostly lower-volume parts operations dealerships to convert from their microfiche-based look-up systems to more modern technology.

This creates an interesting dynamic. The solution being marketed to these dealerships by EPC providers, such as Bell & Howell, is to migrate to an Internet-based EPC. In other words, go from 50 year-old technology to "future technology" virtually overnight.

Internet EPCs are the direction manufacturers are nudging the EPC providers to go with future products, but slower connectivity speeds at most dealerships today make this technology not practical at a typical high-volume parts operation. However, the lower-cost Internet EPC solution is ideal for the lower-volume dealerships where speed is not as much of a factor.

Bell & Howell pioneered the EPC in 1987, and it was first-to-market on the Internet EPC with an application for Hyundai in 1998. Last year it introduced Internet EPCs for GM and Ford. Today it is developing Internet EPCs for a number of other manufacturers. EPCs are critical tools for most dealership parts operations.