Suppliers and their key customers will be spending some quality time together at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) thanks to the event's sixth annual Supplier Preview Days (Jan. 4-5).

Originally intended as a way to let suppliers view the show before the throngs of people start streaming through the doors of Detroit's Cobo Center, Supplier Preview Days has evolved into vendor-customer event.

"We find that our customers and employees enjoy going to the show without the crowds," says Sharon Wenzl, director of corporate relations at Freudenberg-NOK General Partnership. "It's a good link to what you're doing day to day. You see the results of your work."

"We didn't know where it was going to go," says NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts about the Supplier Preview Days concept, which was borrowed from the Frankfurt show. It has become so popular that Mr. Alberts has capped attendance at 10,000. So far, 600 suppliers have requested credentials for the two-day preview of the big show. "We're attracting companies from all over the country," says Mr. Alberts.

In addition to Supplier Preview Days, component and material manufacturers use associate sponsorship packages and the Detroit show's annual black tie charity preview to increase visibility and create customer good will.

Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI), ITT Automotive, Delco Electronics Corp. and Michelin Tire & Rubber Co. are associate show sponsors and maximize their investment with customer hospitality, media relations and exhibits.

"It's an opportunity for us to interface with auto company people at the highest levels as well as people at the platform levels," says Jeff Steiner, manager of marketing communications at JCI.

Other supplier activity surrounding the NAIAS ranges from creative events such as DuPont Automotive's customer dinner at the Detroit Historical Museum prior to the charity preview to Dana Corp.'s "polite presence" at the gala.