Mann + Hummel GmbH is tuning in to a new product.
The auto supplier recently launched production of the Symposer, a small nylon auto part that can alter an unwanted engine sound into one more pleasing to drivers.
The part began going onto turbo versions of Ford Motor Co.'s four-cylinder Focus sold in Europe in 2005 to replace the high-pitch whine of the turbo with a sound similar to that coming from a six-cylinder muscle car.
``Most of the time we want to get rid of noise,'' said Claude Mathieu, president and chief executive officer of Mann + Hummel USA Inc., the North American unit of Ludwigsburg, Germany-based M+H.
``This time, we want to make a different noise,'' he said at an April 5 news conference at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2006 World Congress in Detroit.
The company developed the Symposer as a less expensive alternative to electronic methods used to do away with unwanted sounds. The glass-reinforced part funnels sounds from the engine into a sealed chamber, where a nylon flap is used to alter the shape of the sound waves to a more pleasing sound.
The improved noise is then piped toward the engine compartment, where drivers hear a sportier sound when they accelerate. People outside the car can hear a slight difference, but the Symposer is aimed almost exclusively at the people inside the vehicle, said John Baumann, manager of business development with Mann + Hummel USA.
Companies like M+H have altered sounds previously, but they typically had focused on manipulating the noise coming through the air-intake system, rather than the engine itself.
``We control the vibrations, so we can control the noise,'' Mathieu said.
The company is showing the injection molded part to other automakers and expects to find other customers soon, both in Europe and North America.
Mann + Hummel has been growing in North America. It opened a plant in Mexico in 2004 and has steadily added new product lines there as well as in South Bend, Mich.
Mathieu said the firm expects a 30 percent boost in its North American business this year, which includes air-intake manifolds, air filters and oil filters. The company has adequate room for its production now but expects to expand within the next three to four years if growth continues at a strong pace.