Author:Case, Brendan M.

WHAT IF YOU BUILD A SLEEK NEW Communications system and no one wants to use it?

That's what happened to Volkswagen de Mexico, which recently installed an alaborate private Internet system, known as an extranet, to link VW dealerships across Mexico to the company's factory in Puebla. But a year after the Dealer Communications System was launched, less than half of the 200 dealerships are actually online. "Some-times it's hard for people to see the benefits right away," says information systems manager Roberto Celles.

The password-protected system promises to cut in half the time a dealer must wait for spare parts.

The network also offers a 24-hour interface for dealers to manage the entire range of post-sale services, from their own accounts with Volkswagen to the leasing contracts they offer customers. They can order new inventory and consult the company's catalog--tasks that were once done by telephone, fax or mail. Total cost savings from the...

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