Like the Fuller brush man of days gone by, automotive suppliers are opening their suitcases full of product at Chrysler Corp. and Ford Motor Co. Unlike the door-to-door salesman, however, these vendors are welcomed with open arms by automakers to show OEM engineers and purchasing people the latest technology and capabilities they have to offer.

Until now the only place a supplier could display its entire range of products was at the annual Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Congress and Exhibition in Detroit. There, however, the show floor is teeming with nosy competitors, probing journalists and a lot of people escaping office confines who have nothing to do with platform decisions.

Chrysler and Ford offer suppliers an opportunity to set up advanced technology displays and conduct product seminars in a quiet and secure environment. And the people viewing the exhibits are the actual decision makers.

While General Motors Corp. does not have a similar program, a spokesman says suppliers sometimes are invited to display products and make presentations as part of its advanced purchasing process. Nissan Research and Development Inc. occasionally asks suppliers to display at its technical center in Farmington Hills, MI, and Honda of America Mfg. Inc. has been conducting supplier fairs twice a year at its two Ohio plants for nearly a decade.

"These are not sales shows, it's not like SAE," says Joseph Borruso, senior vice president-sales and engineering at Robert Bosch Corp. "These are focused technological exchanges in ideal venues to present the latest technology."

"It's a great way to familiarize customers with our programs in a way that's convenient for them," says David Long, vice president of communications at UT Automotive, which supplies both Chrysler and Ford.

Chrysler hosts suppliers in the education center of its Auburn Hills, MI, Chrysler Technology Center. In Dearborn, Ford recently opened its Technology Review Center, which it believes is the first full-time supplier-oriented exhibition facility provided by an automaker.

Hoping to quell supplier concerns that the advanced technology they show at the new Ford facility might be vulnerable, "We guarantee you security for your crown jewels," says Ford worldwide purchasing chief Carlos E. Mazzorin.

"When we go into a customer's facility we have their complete attention for two or three days," says Michael School, manager of public relations for UTA. "And we're able to show technologies in earlier stages of development than at a trade show because only OEM employees are allowed in."

Even small suppliers will get their chance to strut their stuff at the new Ford facility. "For guys like us (a facility like the TRC) is beneficial because the Ford people will see what we're doing, and that will help," says Timothy Scollin, senior account executive for Injectronics Inc.