Covisint is having trouble convincing carmakers, including its own founding members, to use the online exchange for certain key operating functions.
Product development is the main area of contention. Carmakers want to keep online product engineering behind their own corporate 'firewalls.'
The companies guard their development processes jealously. Few analysts believe Covisint's recent tie-up with product development software specialist Matrix One will change this for some time.
Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler, which each own a stake in Covisint, have built up years of experience in the CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing) area. They typically use software from Structural Dynamics Research Corporation (SDRC), now part of Electronic Data Systems (EDS), and French group Dassault Systemes, creator of the Catia three-dimensional design program.
In recent years, this software has been modified to individual requirements. Ford's C3P system, for example, is an extension of SDRC's basic product development package.
C3P combines Ford's computer-aided design, manufacturing, engineering and product management into a single database. It allows engineers from different companies to work together to develop 3-D renderings of parts designs. Changes can be viewed on the Web in real time, providing levels of precision that eliminate the need to develop prototypes.
Covisint Europe boss Lars Olrik is philosophical about the situation.
'We cannot expect an organization such as Ford to take its whole development platform in one day and pass it over to an organization like Covisint,' he said. 'We are realistic - we don't expect them to make immediate huge changes.'
Still, Covisint Europe expects that its choice of Matrix One will allow it to make progress in the product development area.
Olrik says that placing functions behind corporate firewalls reduces operational transparency. This is in sharp contrast with Covisint, which has both transparency and independence, characteristics that mean, in theory at least, that everyone can participate.
Olrik says that Covisint must be able to interact with other marketplaces for the sake of the European auto industry - and especially in product development.
He admits that it took Covisint some time to decide what role to play. Up to nine months ago, little or no dialogue existed with the other major exchanges - SupplyOn, VW and BMW.
Covisint now sees an urgent need to be at the forefront of discussions with other e-marketplaces.
Olrik said: 'It is not our role to push standards, it is our role to ensure the industry gets connected.'