Giant automaker DaimlerChrysler is preparing to launch a new Internet unit to handle the company’s consumer and business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce initiatives, according to published reports in Germany.
DaimlerChrysler, one of the world’s largest automakers and the third largest in the United States, reportedly will group its Internet activities and holdings under one umbrella. The company may float the venture through an initial public offering.
DaimlerChrysler has been active in building up its Internet activities in recent months, as have American automakers General Motors and Ford.
In March, DaimlerChrysler joined with GM, Ford, French automaker Renault and Japanese automaker Nissan to form an online B2B exchange called Covisint. After completion of an ongoing antitrust review by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the marketplace will link the automakers with their 30,000 suppliers and will generate estimated annual transactions of over $300 billion (US$).
In May, DaimlerChrysler took an equity stake in The Cobalt Group and signed the company, a provider of Web-based B2B services for the automotive industry, to develop e-commerce Web sites for its dealer network.
The Cobalt Group will develop custom sites for 2,100 Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealers that will be integrated into DaimlerChrysler’s corporate Web page and central database. DaimlerChrysler said the sites will provide consumers with pricing, inventory, purchase incentives and information about cars from the participating manufacturers.
DaimlerChrysler reportedly has nearly $100 million in the bank to expand its online businesses, and is said to be looking at increasing its leasing and financing business on the Internet. As a participant and equity holder in the Covisint marketplace, the company will be participating in a planned initial public offering of that venture.
The IPO is expected within the next 18 months if regulators give the go-ahead.
DaimlerChrysler reported record revenues of $39.2 billion for the first quarter. Its Mercedes-Benz unit sold 260,000 cars while its Chrysler group of Plymouth, Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler sold over 920,000 cars in the first quarter.
The company is the result of a merger between Stuttgart, Germany-based Daimler and Detroit, Michigan-based Chrysler. It has 440,000 employees worldwide.