Can't afford a Ferrari? Well, Faurecia SA, the French auto parts maker, has what might be the next best thing: A system that makes your car sound like one.
Faurecia is offering car makers a mini loudspeaker that can amp up the muffled sound of a small engine's exhaust so it has the roar of a supercar's.
That's perhaps not good news for the neighbors but a possible boon for drivers aching for the head-turning noise of a Ferrari without spending $250,000 to get it.
Faurecia is showing its loudspeaker at this week's Frankfurt auto show. The unit of France's PSA Peugeot Citroën group has recognized that tougher emissions-control legislation is making cars quieter due to the extra technology required inside the "hot" end of the exhaust system to reduce CO2 emissions and pollution like particulates. Modern cars with diesel engines generate more noise from the engine itself than from the tail pipe.
Engines are also getting smaller as manufacturers try to cut fuel consumption without sacrificing power, a trick they pull off by using exhaust gases to help drive the engine through turbochargers. That can give three- and four-cylinder engines the sort of oomph but not the noise once associated with bigger engines. The throaty roar of a V-8 that some particularly in North America would say is the sound of automotive freedom is disappearing.
"There's a lot of interest from North American manufacturers," said Peter Lakin, head of sales, marketing and programs at Faurecia Emissions Control Technologies. German auto makers have also shown interest, Mr. Lakin said.
Faurecia's system uses sophisticated software that captures what a car's engine is doing to drive a loudspeaker contained in the muffler, whose only role normally is to reduce sound.
Through the loud speaker, Faurecia's system that will be preinstalled at the factory will also allow drivers to select from a few different exhaust sounds ranging from quiet to sporty.
The system also uses its software to strip out annoying ambient sounds, like the whine of the turbocharger, by using active noise control technology to cancel out the unwanted noise, similar to noise-cancelling headphones. The noise signal frequency picked up by a microphone in the muffler is slightly modified and played back over the loudspeaker so that the original sound isn't audible.
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