Neil Schilke says he understands the business climate that drove Robert Bosch GmbH to drop its exhibit from the 2002 Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit. But the SAE president says he does not regard Bosch's decision as a negative statement about the Congress.

“The industry in general and suppliers in particular are really being hammered by these adverse business conditions,” Mr. Schilke tells WAW. He is convinced that Tier 1 suppliers that did not exhibit at the 2001 Congress may come back, along with Bosch, when conditions improve.

Mr. Schilke says he will continue his drive to make the Congress an attractive venue for Tier 1s and OEMs alike. He wants companies “banging on the door” to get in. “If they aren't, we haven't done our job,” he says.

Bosch was the largest remaining Tier 1 supplier at the show following major supplier defections in '01. The company declined to estimate its cost for participating in SAE.

The announcement will force other exhibitors, especially competitor Siemens VDO Automotive, to reconsider whether to stay in for '02. Denso Corp., American Axle & Mfg. Inc. and Mahle Technology Inc. say they will exhibit in '02.

Companies not planning to exhibit include ArvinMeritor Inc., Behr GmbH, Delphi Automotive Systems, DuPont Automotive, Hella North America Inc., Valeo SA, Yazaki North America Inc. and ZF Friedrichshafen AG. Visteon Corp. is undecided.

Mr. Schilke has been meeting with Big Three management to convince them that their engineers and purchasing agents need to attend the Congress.

The Bosch departure is another blow to SAE shortly after the group canceled this year's Greenbrier conference in West Virginia and postponed both the Digital Car Conference and the International Body Engineering Conference, both slated for Oct. 16-18 in Detroit. The latter two events will be part of the '02 SAE Congress.