Others such as Visteon, Bosch and Siemens VDO are sponsoring panels or events this year and may increase support later if they are happy with the changes.
"I never sensed that support for the event was crumbling," says Rich Schaum, executive vice president of product development and quality for the Chrysler group. As general chairman of the Congress this year, Schaum helped engineer many changes. "We did see a serious decline in the willingness to buy floor space in the exposition. But support for the panels, the exchange of technical papers, the interaction has always been strong."
SAE prospered in the auto industry's sales boom of the late 1990s, almost assuming the look of an auto show. SAE even had a waiting list of companies hoping to claim unused space at the last minute.
The spinoffs of Delphi from General Motors and Visteon from Ford created instant new No. 1 and No. 2 auto suppliers in North America. Delphi and Visteon spent heavily to establish themselves and try to win new business with elaborate, multi-story displays with high-tech lighting systems and throbbing techno music.
Other suppliers felt compelled to boost spending to keep pace. Cobo Center teemed with people and exhibitors. But most suppliers never displayed their latest products and technical advancements, knowing that competitors were watching.
After peaking in 2000, the exposition deflated rapidly.
Once handed responsibility for this year's show, Schaum started by meeting with 50 Tier 1 suppliers at a DaimlerChrysler breakfast meeting. GM and Ford also met with suppliers.
"I wanted to hear from them how to make the SAE show better," Schaum says. "That's where the idea came from to ask the OEMs, as many as we could, to sign up and have technology displays on the show floor."
Yazaki was one of the first suppliers to return.
"They did everything we asked of them, and more," spokesman Jeff Jones said. "How could we not go back after that?"