Expansion of Convertible Topping Options Builds Haartz Global Presence

Wed, 09/28/2022 - 10:01 -- debhaartz

As The Haartz Corporation celebrates its centennial year, the company enjoys a global presence in the automotive market, but that was not always the case. While Haartz was known as a long-time regional player in the United States market for convertible toppings, the 1990s is the decade when Haartz began to look like the company it is today. 

The BMW E36 3-Series is the first vehicle that helped to usher in Haartz's expansion outside of the US – the last two years of its production really pulled the company into the European market. In a few short years, Haartz’s presence in Europe was solidified with the introduction of the BMW Z3 in 1995, which used Haartz material.

The European market brought new challenges, forcing Haartz to adapt to meet the standards set by the European Union. The company innovated with unique fiber blends and inner-layer technologies, eventually creating the now globally recognized Twillfast exterior found on many modern convertibles. 

"We evolved the Twillfast material to a butyl rubber inner-layer and 100% PET linings," stated Matthew Williams, vice president of global automotive exteriors and new markets at Haartz. "This type of exterior was most notably highlighted in the early 2000s with the Audi TT and new BMW E46 3-Series."

In 2001, Haartz was presented with another opportunity in the European market – a chance to acquire its competitor in Mannheim, Germany, Rode & Schwalenberg, more commonly known as R&S. The existing R&S Sonnenland-brand products were well recognized and Haartz took advantage by increasing market adoption of its own products through this tie. 

One of the first vehicles with a new topping following the acquisition was the acoustically sound Sonnenland A5B/DS on the Audi A5. Haartz also introduced customized weave patterns for the MINI Cooper with Sonnenland Denim HT "Blue Jeans" topping and later the jacquard-woven Union Jack roof products. 

"The entry into the European market and acquisition of R&S ultimately led to penetration of the Japanese market," stated Williams. "In 2004, we provided the topping on the Mazda Miata. With Miata, Haartz could finally claim true global coverage of the market. "

The Sonnenland product and similar Twillfast line exteriors helped to fuel broader market adoption from brands like Fiat, Citroen, Peugeot, Renault, Maserati, Aston-Martin and Smart - with others introducing novel roof systems utilizing Haartz materials in the mid-2010s. Consumers now had the broadest range of open-air driving options ever available to this point, with diversity of roof styles including variations in color, design and performance.

In the same timeframe, Jeep later added Twillfast to its Wrangler line, providing an upscale look of the exterior compared to the traditional PVC topping. The option was well received by consumers, with more than 50 percent opting for the Twillfast roof. Soon after Jeep introduced the Gladiator and Ford followed suit with the Bronco contributing heavily to the expansion of the open-air SUV marketplace.

The market for open-air SUVs continues to grow with additional models from the likes of Land Rover, Mahindra, and EV Hummer – all utilizing Haartz exteriors. Looking to the future, Haartz plans to focus on material and design developments that bring consumers all they ask for in a truly unique open-air driving market.

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