UGN Inc., a Japanese- and Swiss-owned interior trim supplier, is expanding into the vehicle carpet business in North America.
The joint-venture company says the patented sound-deadening material in its trim parts will be used for floor coverings, too.
Nissan North America Inc. will use UGN's "Rieter Ultra Light" material for the carpets in an unspecified vehicle to be built in Smyrna, Tenn., starting in late 2006
To supply Nissan, UGN will build a carpet factory in Somerset, Ky., that will employ about 300 people.
CEO Peter Anthony says that UGN is discussing a second vehicle program with another Japanese automaker in North America. He declined to identify that customer.
"Our expectations are that there is a sizable amount of business there, and that Somerset will eventually eclipse our other factories," Anthony says.
UGN has been using the Rieter material to produce interior panels and headliners for Nissan, Toyota and Honda at a plant in Jackson, Tenn.
UGN of Tinley Park, Ill., outside Chicago, is owned 50-50 by Rieter Automotive Systems of Switzerland and Toyota-affiliate Nihon Tokushu Toryo Co. Ltd. of Japan.
The venture was created to sell acoustic components to Japanese automakers in North America.
Toyota used an earlier version of the acoustic material - supplied by UGN's parent companies - as carpeting in the Japan-made 2002 Lexus ES 300.
UGN ranks No. 141 on the Automotive News list of the top 150 suppliers to North America with North American original-equipment automotive parts sales of $220 million in 2004.