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SAE cancels Greenbrier, San Antonio meetings

DETROIT — The SAE International's Detroit Section has canceled its annual leadership conference that was scheduled for mid October.

The 51-year-old event, an annual gathering of top executives from automakers and auto suppliers, was canceled because many companies have banned or severely restricted travel by executives in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11., an SAE Detroit Section spokeswoman said.

This was to have been a pivotal year for the event, renamed the Global Leadership Conference. Organizers wanted the meeting to become more diverse, serious and accessible, and less of a financial burden on the auto companies that pay for it.

Changes included opening the conference to Japanese and European automakers, and spreading the $500,000 event cost among several sponsors, instead of asking one automaker to foot the entire bill.

The event was retooled in response to concerns that the event, held at the luxury Greenbrier resort in White Sulfur Springs, W.Va., had become too expensive in an era of unrelenting cost pressures on auto suppliers. There also were concerns that the conference didn't offer a strong business program.

According to several of last year's attendees, the number of auto executives on hand was lower than expected and attendance at the formal presentations was weaker than usual. At one point, speaker Richard Parry-Jones, group vice president for product development and quality at Ford Motor Co., which funded last year's event, chided the audience for its lackluster attitude.

Also, SAE has canceled a Fuels and Lubricants Meeting and Exposition that was set for Monday, Sept. 24, through Thursday, Sept. 27, in San Antonio.

SAE cited travel problems for attendees as the reason for the cancellation. It said authors who were to present papers will be urged to give their presentations at a similar meeting next May in Reno, Nev.

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