Toyota Paves The Road To CustomizationToyota Paves The Road To Customization
New VPN links dealers to corporate systems, will give buyers flexibility
June 1, 2002
A new virtual private network that links 900 Toyota and 200 Lexus dealers with Toyota's information systems will make it easier for customers, eventually, to custom-configure vehicles and have them delivered days later.
Toyota's Dealer Daily dealer-management network, unveiled last week, will integrate with a design-and production-management system the automaker plans to deploy in the next three to five years with IBM and Dassault Systèmes S.A. at a cost of $800 million to $1.2 billion, says Barbara Cooper, CIO of Toyota Motor Sales USA. The IBM-Dassault deal is designed to get Toyota's design, production, and supply-chain systems ready to support an order-to-deliver option, which Toyota and other auto manufacturers plan to offer once their systems can support it and customer demand is clearly defined. "We think the dealer infrastructure we've built gives us the edge when it comes to getting the customer what he wants when he wants it," Cooper says, adding that in the near term, the system will let Toyota executives do a better job of determining which customer groups buy which cars by gathering demographic information in real time. For the past four years, Toyota's IT division, along with Dell Computer, Microsoft Consulting Services, and WorldCom, has been developing Dealer Daily, a Windows-based system that replaces a legacy AS/400 system and links to dealership-management applications used by sales personnel and managers at car dealerships. Toyota didn't disclose the cost of the Dealer Daily system. The dealers started using the system earlier this year via secure VPN links over the Internet. Since then, productivity has increased by nearly 70% because dealers spend more time selling vehicles and less time on administrative tasks such as entering data from their retail systems into the Toyota legacy system, a procedure that took time and often resulted in errors. One strength of the new dealer system is its integration with auto-retailing applications from Automatic Data Processing, Reynolds and Reynolds, and Universal Computer Systems. Many Toyota dealerships also sell other brands of vehicles, and dealers need to be able to continue using those retail systems. Those vendors build integration interfaces based on Toyota's specifications for the Dealer Daily, Cooper says. Toyota has made it easy for dealers to use the new system. "To get access to the Dealer Daily," Cooper says, "all dealerships need is an Internet connection."
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