Since it was founded in Paris in 1948, the worldwide automotive engineering organization has focused on only the most technical issues of auto-making.
But next week in Paris, the group will throw open its doors to a diverse public discussion of the future of vehicles.
FISITA, an umbrella organization of 30 national engineering societies with 130,000 members among them, wants to play a major role in 21st-century society.
FISITA's anniversary congress 28 September-1 October in Paris will reach out to new participants from political, environmental, energy, marketing and urban planning backgrounds.
While FISITA conferences normally hear hundreds of technical papers, the organization plans to broaden its mission this year.
'In the past, FISITA might hear 350 or so papers presented on very technical issues of the auto industry,' said spokesman Ian Dickie. 'This year we want to make it much more inclusive. We are giving half of the congress over to much broader subjects.'
Speakers include politicians and urban planners, representatives from oil companies, public transportation and traffic officials and individuals from other non-technical backgrounds.
In the opening session, a roundtable of five automaker chief executives and one global supplier will address industry challenges of the coming century.
The panel will consist of:
Bernd Pischetsrieder, chairman of BMW;
J.T. Battenberg, chairman of Delphi Automotive Systems;
Paolo Cantarella, general manager of Fiat;
Soichiro Toyoda, chairman of Toyota;
Jean-Martin Folz, chairman of PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, and
Louis Schweitzer, chairman of Renault.
The group will discuss:
Whether automakers have enough human and financial resources to meet future requirements for safety, emissions and recyclability, and yet maintain the full range of vehicles that they make today.
What role automakers will play when component makers produce almost every part of future vehicles. 'This will be very interesting, with J.T. Battenberg there,' said Xavier Karcher, chairman of the FISITA congress.
Whether the industry will see large, global service companies from industries like insurance, finance and computers entering the auto-retailing business, which is also service oriented.
FISITA wants to become a center for discussion of global harmony of rules affecting car design.
Karcher said that a FISITA exhibit will show a 30-year history of changes in safety, emissions, recycling and other regulatory areas.
Karcher said the congress will have about 2,000 participants.