LAS VEGAS — In an effort to drive technology innovation to automotive dealerships worldwide, Microsoft Corp. launched the Microsoft Automotive Retail Solutions Initiative at the NADA Convention and Exposition, unveiling key alliances as part of a new partner ecosystem providing dealer management solutions.

Five companies — DealerTrack Inc., JM Solutions, Manheim, RouteOne and The Cobalt Group Inc. — will directly integrate their industry product offerings into the upcoming Dealer Management System for Microsoft Dynamics AX (MSDMS). Five additional partners — AutoBase Inc., bridgeSpeak, Chrome Systems Inc., Crowe Chizek and Co. LLC and Oxlo Systems Inc. — will provide complementary solutions as part of the initiative.

"Vehicle retailers are struggling to improve sales, operational efficiency and customer satisfaction in a highly competitive market," said John Reed, director of automotive retail solutions in the U.S. Manufacturing Group at Microsoft. "By launching this initiative, Microsoft is creating an open partner ecosystem around dealership solutions that will encourage innovation and ultimately give dealers the flexibility to manage their businesses the way they want."

The Dealer Management System for Microsoft Dynamics AX will provide a platform for open integration between Microsoft's intuitive, familiar technology and solutions that serve the specific needs of the automotive dealer industry. Announced in July 2006, MSDMS is being developed by Microsoft with Infonizer ApS, a Denmark-based automotive IT solutions company with a North American subsidiary in Ann Arbor, Mich. Pilot implementations are scheduled to begin in late 2007.

While other partners are expected to join the initiative in the coming months, the five companies integrating their products into MSDMS offer a variety of applications and services that help round out a complete DMS offering.

"Manheim's alliance with Microsoft will help create a new paradigm in dealer management systems by providing franchised dealers with seamless push/pull integration to Manheim's numerous dealer applications and services. This will include access to pre-sale inventories, online vehicle registration of vehicles purchased at auction or vehicles being sold at auction, plus the added convenience of full integration," said Ralph Liniado, senior vice president business development at Manheim.

The five partners that provide complementary solutions to MSDMS integrate with Microsoft technology and legacy dealer IT systems. These include AutoBase, a provider of marketing and sales solutions; bridgeSpeak, a provider of speech-enabled interactive voice response solutions; Chrome Systems, a provider of vehicle data, systems and services; Crowe Chizek and Co., an accountancy firm that provides business services and reporting; and Oxlo Systems, operator of an automotive retail integration network.

Microsoft also continues to support vendors that market their own dealer management system offerings, which integrate with Microsoft technology. These include Automotive Computer Services Inc., MPK Automotive Systems, PBS Systems and Quorum Information Technologies Inc.