MIAMI — Haartz Corp. built its reputation producing fabric for soft-top convertible roofs. But interior applications such as fabric for door panels and headliners now account for most of the company's annual revenues.
That diversification is part strategic choice and part necessity. Vehicle sales crashed for the auto industry in the Great Recession and its aftermath, but convertible sales suffered more than average.
Doug Haartz, international sales manager for Haartz Corp., said global production for hard-top and soft-top convertibles combined fell to about 370,000 vehicles in 2014, from a peak of 845,000 in 2007. In 2016, output was back up to nearly 500,000 vehicles, the company said.
On the positive side for Haartz Corp., a privately held supplier in Acton, Mass., soft tops are coming back faster than folding hard tops, in large part in response to automakers' efforts to reduce vehicle weight. Still, the company is sticking with its diversification strategy away from the business. Doug Haartz, 59, spoke with Special Correspondent Jim Henry on the sidelines of a Southern Automotive Media Association event here.
Q: Haartz is known for tops, but how much of its business is in other applications?
A: Top materials make up approximately 45 percent of our overall turnover. The foundation of our company was originally convertible tops and historically it's been most of our business.
When did Haartz start making fabrics for other uses? Was that driven by the recession?
In the mid-1990s we became involved with interior applications.
How long has the "other" category made up more than half of the total?
Within the last decade. It fluctuates every year. The first time, it was in the 2008-2009 time frame.
The recession played a role, certainly?
The entire automotive market took a hit. You can safely say convertibles took even more of a hit than mainstream cars.
What else does Haartz make, besides fabric for tops?
Door panels, instrument panels, seat backs — many different interior applications. The first interior applications were with door panels. Cars don't always have convertible tops, but they always have doors. So closed vehicles represent a larger market for us, whether it's a car or a truck, rather than a car that's built specifically to be a convertible.
Given your name, it seems likely that you're a member of the founding family.
It's not a direct line. It would've been my great-grandparents' family, that generation. But there are a couple of branches of the Haartz family.