Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR) today announced the launch of its strategic analysis of the automotive industry. The new Automotive Market Focus will concentrate on the eBusiness opportunities and challenges facing manufacturers, suppliers, and dealers that compete in this $1 trillion global industry. Future research will address how the Internet is transforming the way cars are built, sold, and driven.

“The shift to eBusiness is the latest wave of change in the automotive industry, intensifying companies’ need for strategic direction and research,” said Christopher Mines, group director at Forrester. “Forrester’s eBusiness expertise will enable participants throughout the auto value chain to anticipate and profit from the transforming effects of the Internet. In turn, Forrester will help industry players improve the consumer experience of buying, owning, and driving cars.”

“Forrester has played a key role in General Motors’ eBusiness transformation dating back to the creation of e-GM,” said Mark Hogan, president of e-GM. “We fully value the insight that Forrester offers to help shape our strategies as well as strengthen GM’s leadership position in the automotive eBusiness arena.”

Forrester’s Automotive Market Focus research will explore how B2B eMarketplaces will transform the auto industry’s extensive supply chain and where these changes will first take place. The expanded auto research will also examine how the automotive industry will be affected by rapid growth in B2C eCommerce, as well as the ways in which auto manufacturers will create online relationships with customers.

“Given disruptive changes to conducting business over the Internet, the world’s largest manufacturing industry clearly faces huge challenges and opportunities in B2B and B2C eCommerce,” said Baba Shetty, senior analyst at Forrester. “Forrester’s research will advise manufacturers, suppliers, and dealers on how to bring customer and supplier relationships online, as well as how to implement new Internet-based business practices.”

According to “Overhauling Online Car Buying,” a new Forrester Report written by Shetty, the Internet’s potential hasn’t been tapped by automotive retailers. Current online car-buying sites do little to improve the customer experience or the efficiency of the automotive retail channel. Forrester predicts the development of a new model for online car selling called locate-to-order will accelerate online retail sales and improve distribution efficiency — a precursor to the build-to-order revolution that senior analyst W. Daniel Garretson will explore in a future Forrester Report.

“Increasingly, automakers are looking to the Net to streamline business processes and increase supply chain transparency,” said Garretson. “We will see private supply chain hubs and public B2B eMarketplaces like Covisint change the shape of automobile manufacturing enabling suppliers and OEMs in the auto value chain to reduce inventories and production times and ultimately achieve the Holy Grail of build-to-order automobiles. Our research will explore which supply-side strategies and business models will win in the end.”

Christopher Mines, with his extensive experience researching the impact of the Internet on large vertical industries, will lead Forrester’s new Automotive Market Focus team. Baba Shetty will focus on the impact of technology in the automotive marketplace, with a particular emphasis on B2C relationships. His current research agenda includes automotive B2C eCommerce, new business models, and the evolution of industry structure. Dan Garretson will examine the influence of the Internet on the way cars are built and sold, with a particular focus on B2B relationships in the automotive industry. His research will explore the evolution of build-to-order auto manufacturing, changing company roles, and the impact of new ownership models.