Attendance at the Ward’s Auto Interiors Conference, held this week at The Henry hotel in Dearborn, MI, reflects an 11% increase over last year’s event and planning already has begun for the 2012 confab.

Standing-room only crowds were on hand for keynote speeches by Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s design chief and CEO of the Dodge brand, and Robert Gelardi, manager of North American Design at Ford.

The presentation of the Ward’s 10 Best Interiors awards also included a new twist, with live video footage and commentary about the winning interiors projected onto two large screens on either side of the stage.

The conference included scholarship awards to students from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies who participated in a design competition for future interiors.

Throughout the day, eight panel sessions were well attended and provided the latest information from industry experts on subjects such as environmentally friendly materials, connectivity, consumer needs, luxury interiors, safety and small-car design.

Closing the conference was Bob Lutz, who retired last year as vice chairman of General Motors and was signing promotional copies of his latest book, “Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business,” which officially goes on sale June 9.

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