Robert Bosch has decided not to take part in the 2002 SAE World Congress, citing financial constraints and the uncertain economy. Siemens, another major exhibitor, is also rethinking its presence at the show.
It puts more pressure on the Society of Automotive Engineers' flagship US trade show, to be held March 4 to March 7, 2002, at the Cobo Center in Detroit.
Several major Tier 1 suppliers -including Delphi, Visteon, Lear and Dana - did not exhibit at the show in 2001.
Only six of the 40 largest suppliers on the Automotive News Europe list of Top 150 original equipment suppliers to North America staged significant exhibits in 2001.
Suppliers have questioned exhibition costs and the quality of automaker attendance and have said they prefer private technology shows, where proprietary products can be shared more freely with customers away from the scrutiny of competitors.
The exodus last year left Bosch as the largest Tier 1 company on the SAE roster. But the slowdown in the North American market and the uncertainty about business after the September 11 terrorist attacks caused the American division of the giant German supplier to reconsider its position at SAE.
'Our marketing communications budget has been significantly reduced,' said Bosch spokesman Eric Kosmider.
Kosmider acknowledged other Tier 1 suppliers' criticisms of the SAE show but said they were not a factor in Bosch's decision.
A matter of cost
It came down to costs, Kosmider said, though he wouldn't disclose the extent of the budget cuts or Bosch's annual investment in the SAE show. The engineering event, though, is the most expensive annual promotion for Bosch's North American operations.
Typical Tier 1 displays cost $200,000 to $600,000 (E224,300 to E673,000), show participants and organizers say. But past exhibits for giants such as Delphi and Visteon had reached the multimillion-dollar range. Floor space can be 10 percent to 15 percent of the total cost.
The Bosch departure may cause other suppliers to question their involvement in the SAE show.
'With Bosch withdrawing from the show, along with many of the other companies that have already withdrawn, it certainly gives our management cause for re-evaluation for our role,' said Siemens spokesman David Ladd.
Siemens expects to make a decision by early December, when the second and final installment on exhibit rent is due, Ladd said. Those payments, the first of which was made in May, are not refundable.
An SAE executive acknowledged that Bosch's decision could cause other losses.
'It could. I only say that because it has in the past,' said David Amati, director of SAE's professional meetings and activities group. 'When we lost one supplier, another couple would follow.'
The organization is concentrating on preventing further losses and enhancing the 2002 show with new exhibit and meeting formats to increase attendance, Amati said.
A task force of Tier 1 representatives was formed after the 2001 show to work on those issues.