DEARBORN, MICH. — Automotive e-business platform Covisint LLC finally has a leader, one convinced the operation has what it needs to become a leading business-to-business company.
The company named Kevin W. English as its first chief executive officer, chairman and president April 18. English, the former managing director and CEO of e-commerce for Credit Suisse First Boston, will head up a portal that one day is expected to handle billions of dollars' worth of business between automakers and suppliers.
"When I looked at it, I said: `Wow. This has the potential to become the largest b-to-b exchange in the world,'|" English said during a news conference in Dearborn. "This is an Internet-enabled business that has legs."
But English admitted he and the Covisint staff not only must complete the creation of a portal connecting automakers and suppliers, it also must sell the concept to users.
"Clearly, we need to focus the culture of Covisint entirely around the customer," he said.
Covisint formed in February 2000 when North America's Big Three automakers agreed to merge their online purchasing plans. France's Renault V.I. and Japan's Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. later signed on, along with top suppliers in North America and Europe.
Since then, the business has operated out of temporary headquarters in Southfield, Mich., and with only interim leadership. It began hosting some online purchasing in the fall.
English maintains that Covisint has established a base for growth, even if outsiders cannot see what it has accomplished. He compared the work so far with building a bridge, in which the support work takes place out of sight but is essential to the overall strength of the span.
"Covisint should be tremendously proud of the traction and momentum it has accomplished," he said. "We want to ratchet it up."
The company will make its permanent headquarters in the Detroit area, English added.
Lars Olrik continues as managing director of Covisint's European operations, based in Stuttgart, Germany. A third office is in Tokyo.