The GFC almost killed it, but now Italy’s most iconic design house is being reborn as a manufacturer
How the iconic Italian design house became a hypercar manufacturer
IT’S VIRTUALLY impossible to disentangle the histories of Pininfarina and Ferrari. The fate of the styling house formed by Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina was inexorably changed in 1951 when, in a small restaurant in Tortona, Farina and Ferrari met. Since that discussion over coffee, every Ferrari road car bar the 1973 308 GT4 and the 2013 Laferrari have been Pininfarina designs. Now there has been a still more seismic shift in the ambitions of Pininfarina. At this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’elegance, it displayed the styling buck for its PF0 (‘PF zero’) electric hypercar. Pininfarina is now a manufacturer in its own right.
That’s the story the company would want you to believe, in any case. Speak at length to CEO Michael Perschke and you’ll come away filled with visions of a burgeoning product portfolio of high-concept, high-performance EV sedans, SUVS, coupes and shooting brakes, giving the likes of Lamborghini, Bentley and, yes, Ferrari something to contend with. Despite staggering from one debt restructuring and asset sale to another post-gfc, money isn’t a problem. That’s because since 2015, Pininfarina has been bankrolled by the financial might of Mahindra. An initial €25.3m investment bought a 76 percent stake in the company. Since then it’s estimated that another €500m has poured into Pininfarina, but it’s important to separate the new from the ‘old’.
Anand Mahindra, the Group Chairman of the Indian powerhouse conglomerate, explains a subtle but important distinction. “Pininfarina SPA is a design and engineering service provider not only for automobiles but for the transportation sector as a whole, plus product design and architecture. Automobili Pininfarina is a new company that will use the Pininfarina brand to produce a hyper electric car,” he says. “Automobili Pininfarina is a 100 percent subsidiary of Mahindra & Mahindra, while Pininfarina is jointly controlled by Mahindra & Mahindra and its Tech Mahindra engineering subsidiary.”
When asked whether creating its own super sports cars would jeopardise Pininfarina Spa’s existing business, Mahindra claimed that the initial investment
PININ (LEFT) & ENZO FORGED A BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TWO COMPANIES BACK IN THE EARLY ’50S THAT ENDURES TO TODAY