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Suppliers Use Show as Bridge to Buyers

Most people think of Detroit’s auto show as a glitzy showcase for the latest cars and trucks from automakers around the globe. But auto parts makers increasingly are using one of the most influential auto shows in the world to promote their wares to the vehicle manufacturers that buy them and the consumers who use them.

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From The Detroit News via MEMA Industry News

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FARMINGTON HILLS, MI — Most people think of Detroit’s auto show as a glitzy showcase for the latest cars and trucks from automakers around the globe.

But auto parts makers increasingly are using one of the most influential auto shows in the world to promote their wares to the vehicle manufacturers that buy them and the consumers who use them.

“A lot of our products have strong consumer interface points and our [automaker] customers are looking more and more to us to have solid data and feedback on consumer preferences, so this is an opportunity to bridge both sets of people,” said Jacqui Dedo, vice president and general manger of global market operations for electronics maker Motorola Automotive.

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“Creating interest around the products is more like a second benefit that helps you justify the money for participating,” he added.

Dedo declined to disclose how much Motorola is spending at the show.

But the company joins seven other suppliers who are investing a major portion of their marketing budgets to have a presence at Cobo Center during the 2004 North American International Auto show, which opened to media and the auto industry this week and opens to the public on Saturday.

Interiors maker Johnson Controls Inc., paint supplier PPG Industries, tire maker Michelin, chassis system supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG, specialty vehicle maker ASC Inc., Alpine Electronics and deicing system manufacturer Microheat are all either hosting exhibits or sponsoring the show.

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“It’s really hard to say at what point we get our money back,” said Ken Hopkins, Motorola’s director of marketing. “But with the customer feedback that we’re going to get, the consumer interface that we’re going to get and the chance to promote ourselves in a unique way, [to] tie ourselves with such a successful auto show in Detroit is not that big of a reach for us.”

Hooking up with the auto show is a winning game plan for suppliers, said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“It’s been wildly successful for Johnson Controls,” Cole said. “It has a private showing for executives from all over the world.”

Cole said the auto show draws more “policy-level people” than the annual Detroit gathering of the Society of Automotive Engineers, in which big suppliers once participated with large, expensive displays.

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Many major parts makers have stopped exhibiting at the SAE event, Detroit’s largest trade show, in favor of auto shows and private technology presentations to automakers. One big gripe about SAE: Few of their key customers were attending.

Cole also is enthusiastic about the potential for Motorola and other suppliers to use the auto show to generate consumer support for their products, a marketing approach that’s been uncommon among suppliers.

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