When someone mentions automotive parts suppliers, visions of factories in the Midwest, Japan, China, and Mexico come to mind. Greater Boston just doesn't seem like an automotive parts mecca, but the folks at Haartz Corporation, headquartered since the 1960s on an 80-acre site in Acton, beg to differ.
Haartz has been the world's largest supplier of convertible top fabric and materials since shortly after its founding in 1922 and now has 90 percent of the world market. Whether it's the thin vinyl curtain on a Jeep Wrangler or the plush, lined acrylic fabric on the Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead, most likely it's a Haartz top.
New linear weaves are coming this year which will make it possible to extend stripes on the hood and trunk across the convertible top. (Speaking to a meeting of the New England Motor Press Association, we think Haartz executives are talking about the upcoming 2013 Dodge Viper convertible. Or possibly the Shelby GT500 and Chevrolet Camaro.)
Other fancy weaves can create all sorts of design effects and graphic statements, such as Mini's use of blue and silver threads with gold stitching to create a denim jeans effect.
Other innovative options include a translucent top material and a security/acoustical pad as a theft deterrent.
The new Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet — the first SUV convertible — integrates a skylight for rear-seat passengers. New folding roof designs, seen on the Mini and Fiat cabriolet, are a lower-cost alternative to having a top mechanism.
Basic vinyl tops come as either single texture (a basic outer coating with backing) or double (an outer coating, a cloth sheeting layer, rubber film layer, and inside backing cloth). Fancier cloth toppings are either three or five layers and can be dyed to create virtually any color.
While the trend to hardtop convertibles is growing, it's not cutting into soft-top sales just yet. Of all 45 convertible models sold in the US (including the forthcoming Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster and Fiat 500 Cabriolet), 35 still come with a tried-and-true soft-top.
"On the contrary, it seems to be creating a new market," said Doug Haartz, manager of international sales. "The sale of soft-top convertibles remains pretty constant. The retractable versions represent growth in the convertible segment."
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About Boston Overdrive
|Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
|Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
|John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
|Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
|Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
|George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee