Swiss supplier Rieter Automotive Systems is trying to lead a trend in acoustics toward sound absorption to reduce noise inside vehicles.
More than half of vehicles produced globally still use reflective material.
Rieter is banking on the next generation of its core acoustics product, called Ultra Light, to persuade automakers to use sound absorption techniques instead of reflective material to cut down interior noise.
Rieter acoustics competitors include Faurecia, Collins & Aikman Corp., Lear Corp. and BBi Enterprises Group LP.
Rieter's move comes at a time when interior noise ranks among the top complaints by vehicle owners.
Ultra Light is a composite lining of porous materials -- foam, fibers, synthetics and cotton -- that absorbs sound. It will go on the market in January.
The three biggest factors that affect any vehicle's acoustics are engine, road contact and wind, says Jeff VanBuskirk, vice president of systems engineering and development for Rieter Automo-tive North America.
"The traditional way to make a car quiet was to determine where noise was coming in and then stick enough engineered weight between the listener and the noise to stop the sound," says VanBuskirk.
"The problem is, that ties your noise performance directly with the weight. In a world where we're looking at composites and aluminum bodies, I'd have to put back in all that weight they just took out of the body."
So Rieter engineered a multilayer lining of porous materials that absorbs sound for Ultra Light.
"By layering the materials, you can tune them for maximum absorption across the widest possible range of frequencies," VanBuskirk says. "It's performing acoustically as well or better than the other (reflective) package."
Products that reflect sound include a porous, spongy, soft layer and a heavy, dense, rubber- or polymer-based layer of material.
"Our biggest challenge is overcoming some of the historical mindset," VanBuskirk says. "Toyota took a very long time to study Ultra Light. When they finally decided this looks pretty good, there was no stopping it.
With most of our other customers, it's far less organizationally driven. It's more platform by platform. It's not a fast process."
Rieter's CEO for the Americas business group, David Westgate did not disclose Ultra Light pricing. But he says the piece price is the same as or less than a reflective product.