Welcome to the 21st Century - and a new era in the auto industry. It is a new era for all industries, to be sure. E-commerce affects every enterprise. But as the biggest and most complex consumer goods sector, the auto business has the most to gain in the new, connected world.
There are enormous opportunities to reduce cost and better serve the customer as dealers, distributors, suppliers and carmakers evolve into extended enterprises, sharing data on a single network.
Some of the auto industry's long-standing brainteasers could be solved: like the notorious '30 percent' waste in the distribution system; three-day new-car deliveries; and 18-month development cycles.
The new networks will link the consumer with the deepest strata in the supply chain. A Tier 3 supplier in Finland will spring into action the moment a young couple in Seville specifies the interior trim for a new car. Within a few days, the car will be delivered and the dealer, carmaker and lower-tier supplier paid.
The new connectivity should remove the guesswork for suppliers, giving them inventory and production information earlier and more reliably. And it could expedite the long-sought harmonization of global technical standards.
Europe lags behind the USA in online car purchasing. But that, too, will change. Europeans may not be as conditioned to buying on the Internet as Americans, but they have more to gain from it. In Europe - where national borders have kept price differences dramatically high - the ability to shop in cheaper markets will drive Internet sales.
If the industry's leaders are smart, the benefits from connectivity will go direct to consumers. Car-buyers will see lower prices, earlier delivery and faster service. And they will buy more cars. After a stagnant decade in Europe, the web may be the growth engine the region has been searching for.
Technological barriers to this brave new world have been overcome. But there are other issues to resolve. Carmakers, suppliers and dealers must learn to share information better.
That will take a revolution in attitude.
Mutual trust must be nurtured. Suppliers have to know that the headlong rush into electronic integration does not mean they will forfeit design ownership, or see their best ideas quickly become community property.
And the web cannot simply be used for procurement auctions. Computers cannot make important purchasing decisions.
The rewards are worth the risks. Suppliers who adapt now will be at a competitive advantage. When everyone does, the entire industry will be better off.