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Cream of the crop make up Covisint board

The giant marketplace for automakers unveils the first 12 members of its board of directors--a veritable who's who list of the automobile industry.

Covisint, a giant online parts mall for automakers and their suppliers, unveiled Wednesday the first 12 members of its board of directors--a veritable who's who list of the automobile industry.

The all-star board is responsible for finding a CEO, as well as finding numerous other top executives that the 1-year-old company lacks. Covisint, which has been unable to find an appropriate chief executive, plans to elect five additional board members in the upcoming months.

In addition to ending an unusually long and difficult hunt for a CEO, the board must also work to dismantle the reputation of Covisint and the auto industry as a slow-moving and bureaucratic bastion of the Old Economy.

According to a recent survey by KPMG International, the automobile industry and its supply base ranked dead last in terms of technological preparedness as well as organizational commitment to digitization.

Covisint is the latest in a spate of initiatives by automakers to harness the power of the Internet. General Motors, Ford Motor, DaimlerChrysler, Renault and Nissan, along with technology partners Commerce One and Oracle, provided all of the start-up funds for Covisint.

Executives hope to take the company public sometime in 2001, or possibly as late as 2002, if the market for initial public offerings does not improve soon. Covisint could fetch a market capitalization exceeding $10 billion by 2005, according to advisers at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

In a news release issued Wednesday, Southfield, Mich.-based Covisint named the following executives to its board:

• J.T. Battenberg III, an industry veteran who is now chairman, chief executive and president of Delphi Automotive Systems, one of the world's largest suppliers

• Laurent Bourrelier, a well-known executive in the European auto industry and vice president of business-to-business e-commerce for Renault

• Brian P. Kelley, vice president of Ford Motor, head of the automaker's e-commerce ventures and one of the founding strategic executives of Covisint

• James H. Keyes, chairman and chief executive of Johnson Controls, one of the first suppliers to have agreed to participate in Covisint

• Olaf Koch, vice president for corporate e-commerce for DaimlerChrysler, one of the original three founding partners of Covisint

• Edward G. Krubasik, a doctorate professor and member of the corporate executive committee for German electronics giant Siemens

• Harold R. Kutner, group vice president in charge of worldwide purchasing and North American logistics for General Motors

• Carlos E. Mazzorin, group vice president for global purchasing at Ford and a well-known executive in Detroit

• Ralph J. Szygenda, group vice president and chief information officer of GM, widely credited for streamlining the information technology processes at the world's largest manufacturing company

• Gary C. Valade, executive vice president for global procurement and supply at DaimlerChrysler and one of the few senior American executives to have survived a massive shakeout at the merged automaker

• James H. Vandenberghe, vice chairman of Lear, another large supplier that became an early and enthusiastic advocate of Covisint

• Don Walker, president and chief executive of Canadian supplier Magna International

About 25 suppliers have agreed so far to participate in the business-to-business marketplace, but auto industry experts say participants could eventually swell to more than 30,000 companies--ranging from carpet manufacturers to office-supply stores.