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Toyota revs up strategy with online marketplace

The Japanese automaker partners with i2 Technologies to build an online service for the automotive replacement parts industry.

    Toyota Motor today said its sales division and i2 Technologies formed a partnership to build an online service for the automotive replacement parts industry.

    The new marketplace, called iStarXchange, will be jointly owned by Toyota Motor Sales and software maker i2 but operate as an independent company. Equity shares will be divided between i2 and the Japanese automaker, with Toyota Motor Sales holding a majority stake in the new venture, the companies said in a statement.

    Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    A growing number of manufacturers have been sinking their feet into the lucrative business-to-business e-commerce market, building trading exchanges and large marketplaces that connect suppliers, partners and customers online.

    Later today, Ford Motor and Trilogy Software, a closely held maker of business software, plan to announce an e-commerce venture.

    Earlier this month, General Electric said its GE Aircraft Engines unit will launch several Web sites to connect commercial airlines to suppliers and customers, allowing major airlines to buy and sell parts over the Internet at each of their own dedicated GE sites.

    General Motors, which has also partnered with i2 and business-to-business software provider Commerce One, recently announced TradeXchange, the auto giant's online parts service.

    In recent weeks, GM has been wooing Toyota to join its marketplace as it continues to compete head to head with Ford's AutoXchange, a joint venture with database software giant Oracle, announced last November. According to published reports, Ford has also been engaged in talks with Toyota concerning participation in its AutoXchange.

    i2 and Toyota said the iStarXchange will be recruiting participants for the marketplace, including automotive equipment makers, suppliers, wholesalers and independent installers.

    i2, which develops software that automates a company's inventory and distribution needs, said it will provide the software, implementation and support as well as host and manage the venture. iStarXchange will also use i2's TradeMatrix system to automate the site's inventory management, warehousing and shipping systems that will enable equipment manufacturers and suppliers to conduct business on the Web.

    iStarXchange will be located in Torrance, Calif., with initial staffing from both i2 and Toyota. The initial service offerings are expected to be available in the second quarter of 2000, both companies said.