If the hype had held true, today Covisint would be handling more than $1.3 billion in auto industry sales, including nearly all of the purchasing for the biggest automakers in North America.
But instead, the auto companies that once hoped to do their buys through electronic auctions have backed away from the digital purchasing plan, and instead gone back to the old way of buying parts.
But Covisint is still in business, though in an altered form, and still integral in auto relations. Now a subsidiary of business computing giant Compuware Corp., Compuware Covisint provides the interface between General Motors Corp. and more than 10,000 of its suppliers.
The company also is working throughout the auto industry, providing electronic support to a range of firms.
``We've got a significant auto business community out there, and anticipating and meeting their needs is a big part of our focus,'' said Scott Molitor, Covisint marketing director, during a Sept. 11 interview at Compuware's Detroit headquarters.
The Big Three individually were dabbling with the prospect of online electronic auctions for their global purchasing programs through the late 1990s, but in early 2000, they surprised suppliers when they announced plans to create a united e-commerce giant.
``By joining together, we can further increase the pace of implementation, thereby accelerating the benefits to everyone involved,'' GM President Rick Wagoner said when the automakers rolled out what would become Covisint.
Other automakers, including France's Renault SA and its Japanese sister company, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., also invested in the new company.
The first purchase made through Covisint, in October 2000, was for an injection molded part.
But after a few high-profile buys, the buzz over Covisint wore off. Suppliers complained that the portal was being used solely to drive down costs, without the ability to weigh part innovation, quality or delivery capabilities by competing companies.
They also balked at providing too much information on Covisint for fear that they could not fully trust the automaker owners behind the company.
Within three years, Covisint sold the auction side of the business to Pittsburgh-based FreeMarkets Inc. A year later, the automakers sold the remaining holdings to Compuware.
The new owners were left trying to figure out how best to use the electronic backbone of Covisint without its highest-profile product line.
What Compuware Covisint still had was a strong and secure system to connect suppliers and their customers, Molitor said.
``We had to show, from the start, that we could support suppliers who would come in and access Ford data without DaimlerChrysler being able to see it,'' he said. ``We had to make sure that information would never commingle.''
GM's decision to use Covisint for its electronic data interface - or EDI - has become the most well-known part of the new company. Suppliers have to use Covisint to access information such as the sequence of parts required for each day's delivery and can send their own data electronically to notify specific assembly plants when a shipment heads out.
But Covisint has other capabilities that companies are beginning to explore, Molitor said.
He compares the firm to a cable television supplier, with EDI as the equivalent of basic cable channels. Customers can add premium options such as engineering or design software support so they do not have to invest in that software themselves. They also could use Covisint to communicate with other global suppliers, using its translation capacity. Some companies are looking to the firm to help them track parts as they move globally or locally.
``We're not in the business necessarily of creating a lot of applications, but providing access to share the information they need,'' Molitor said.