A good engineer might have a problem with this math.
At a time when the auto industry is getting smaller - when the number of automakers and suppliers is shrinking - the industry's premier technology event is getting bigger.
The SAE 2000 World Congress in Detroit will have more exhibitors, more floor space and more technical sessions and papers than ever before.
The March 6-9 event is expected to draw about 46,000 auto industry representatives from around the world. It will have nearly 1,200 exhibitors, about 100 more booths than in 1999.
The added activity means that the convention host, the Society of Automotive Engineers Inc. of Warrendale, Pa., is moving its on-site registration out of Cobo Center to neighboring Joe Louis Arena to commandeer more convention floor space.
So why is the event growing while the industry is shrinking? Because of the increasing complexities of automotive sciences, SAE officials say.
'People need more technical information in this day and age,' says SAE spokesman David Schwartz. 'The industry is moving at a faster pace. It's harder now to stay on top of all the changes that are taking place.'
That thinking prompted SAE to institute a number of firsts this year. One is an automotive computer technology showcase, a large area devoted to computer hardware and software suppliers. Computer companies make up a large share of the new exhibitors this year, Schwartz says.
Fast-rising technologies in the industry - such as high-voltage electrical systems, fuel cell vehicle power and zero-emissions technologies - also will have a larger role at this year's event.
In the past, fuel cell science seemed to be a remote issue for automakers, but now several manufacturers are pursuing programs. This year, SAE is offering an all-day technical session on fuel cell issues that will look at such topics as fuel processing and waste handling.
ENGINEERS IN DEMAND
The changing knowledge base also prompted SAE to offer a session on educational issues. On March 8, a luncheon panel will discuss the needs of engineering education among automotive companies. At a time when sales are booming and many suppliers are broadening their areas of expertise, the industry is facing a shortage of qualified engineers.
The panel will examine the areas of study future engineers must pursue, how they will help companies with global business strategies and how the industry can increase the supply of engineers.
This year's exhibition will host a panel on vehicle design for the first time in a decade. Moderated by Christopher Bangle, BMW AG director of design, the panel will discuss new influences on design, new trends and the new technologies that play a role in bringing designs to market.
Not all big suppliers exhibit at the SAE show, though.
Johnson Controls Inc., Magna International Inc., Borg-Warner Automotive Inc., Arvin Industries Inc. and Continental Teves Inc. are among major suppliers that won't be there. Their reasons vary, but no-shows typically say they would rather show their technology privately to automakers. Others question whether the benefits of the show outweigh the cost.