DETROIT - You might have missed last year's Global Powertrain Congress. But if the upstart industry conference's organizers can make good on their vision, this year's GPC (June 6-8) here at Cobo Hall will lay the groundwork for GPC's emergence as a must-attend event for powertrain engineers.

Global Powertrain Conference president M. Nasim Uddin is no stranger to organizing a good trade show - the original International Body Engineering Conference (IBEC) was his brainchild - and in a climate many industry observers believe is flooded with trade conferences covering every imaginable sector, he's convinced there's a genuine need for the GPC.

Last year's second GPC was hardly overpromoted, but some industry heavy hitters have lined up to back the 2000 GPC, including names like Sverdrup, Borg-Warner Automotive and the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).

Robert D. Welding, president and general manager at Borg-Warner Transmission Systems, is effusive in his belief that the powertrain community should hold its own conference.

"We think there's a real need for this," he says. "People (in the powertrain community) are looking for a forum. We'd like to see this as being the place to go if you're in the powertrain business."

Although GPC organizers are discreet with their words and deferential to the gigantic event the annual Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Congress and Exposition has become, the sentiment is clear: SAE simply is too big.

"That's one of the reasons GPC was created," says Mr. Welding, stressing that although the SAE Congress is a can't-miss event for many, the powertrain sector can support - and desires - an industry meeting of its own.

Mr. Uddin stresses that the focused nature of GPC brings together various powertrain entities in a much more intimate and productive event. The GPC can boast a OEM senior engineer-or-above participation rate of 40% of all attendees, versus just 10% for SAE's extravaganza.

The first GPC had just 1,400 attendees in total, an intimate garden party compared to SAE's typical 50,000-odd participants. Striving to remain the Un-SAE, the GPC organizers say they expect the conference to grow only modestly this year, to perhaps maybe 1,700 to 2,000 total attendees, then to maintain that sort of level for several years. They are striving for an attendee/exhibitor ratio of about 50/50.

Mr. Welding says the "systems integration" mentality is driving GPC, and believes that once the conference finds its stride, its cozy nature will naturally serve to put the right people together in the same place.

GPC will run four concurrent technical programs: Advanced Engine Design and Performance; Advanced Transmission/Driveline Systems and Performance; Advanced Propulsion and Emissions Technology; New Materials, Assembly and Manufacturing Processes. The conference's website is: www.gpc2000.org.