Changing times in the industry call for a new approach by the Society of Automotive Engineers to its annual world congress in Detroit.
So the organization moved this years event to April 11-14 from the traditional mid-March slot, hoping for better weather and higher attendance. SAE leaders are doing other things to increase the number and rank of attendees, such as offering evening activities.
All told, SAE is trying to underscore its belief that the world congress is one of the global industrys premier events.
Still the largest
This is still the biggest technology event in the world this year, says Dave Amati, SAEs director of global automotive business. And its the largest management conference for the world automotive industry.
Amati said he expects attendance of 35,000 to 40,000 again this year. Thats the estimate of how many attended last years event. Industry consolidation over the past year has tempered Amatis 2004 expectations of 3 percent to 4 percent growth in attendance.
There are not as many companies, and the job requirements of some senior executives are global in nature instead of just North American or European, Amati says. And the ones that still do have the senior positions have broader responsibility and less time to do these things.
On the plus side, a record 12 percent of all attendees last year were senior executives, Amati says. That is roughly what he expects this year.
Asian attendees outnumbered European registrants last year for the first time, and Amati expects a significantly higher ratio of Asians to Europeans this year.
The switch to April is the events biggest change this year. March snowstorms have hurt attendance at each world congress in the past few years, Amati says. And now the event does not overlap with the Geneva auto show.
General Motors is this years host and will loom large: a huge booth on the show floor featuring its advanced vehicles; authorship of about 100 technical papers; and presentations by top executives, including CEO Rick Wagoner and Vice Chairman Robert Lutz.
BMW is sponsoring the 2006 congress; Ford Motor Co. sponsored last years.
Since 2003, automakers have been alternating sponsorship while expecting their major suppliers to pick up some of the load.
Theyve sent a clear message to other OEMs as well as the supplier community that as the OEMs are coming together to support the world congress, maybe suppliers ought to as well, Amati says.
One result: Automakers are submitting more technical papers – 30 percent of this years total, compared with 20 percent three years ago.
Overall, more than 2,200 technical paper abstracts were submitted this year, breaking last years record of 2,000.