Pininfarina: the new carrozzeria

The GFC almost killed it, but now Italy’s most iconic design house is being reborn as a 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 “has not deterred customers so far”. Expanding further he said, “Before we completed the transaction, I spoke with [Ferrari Chairman] John Elkann … Ferrari does its buying with challenge rounds internally and externally; John reassured me that Pininfarina always is a competitor. That was a key element in helping me decide whether we should go ahead.”

Rather than rely on the good graces of Maranello, Pininfarina has looked across the Adriatic to Croatia and, more specifically, Rimac. The PF0 will use the mechanical architecture of the Rimac C_T wo, Perschke confirming that it will have an identical output of 1407kW and 2300Nm. It’s likely that the hypercar will also utilise Rimac’s 800-volt electrical architecture and 120kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The quad-motor architecture with the rear wheels augmented by separate dual-speed gearboxes is a given, and the performance targets of sub-two-second 0-100km/h time, 300km/h dispatched in 12 seconds and a 400km/h top speed are not fantasy, given Rimac’s technical lead in battery density. Nor is the target 515km range.

Automobili Pininfarina plans to build 150 PF0s, fully 50 more than originally stated. Perschke claims that “the response has exceeded all our expectations,” with pricing estimated to be around A$2 million. The model at Pebble Beach had no functional interior, and its public unveil is set for the 2019 Geneva show in March. Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the vehicle is that in artfully dressing another manufacturer’s underpinnings, the PF0 has come full circle, returning Pininfarina to the coachbuilding tradition of its origin. Design director Luca Borgogno summed up its essence. “Soprattuto deve essere bella.” Above all it must be beautiful.’


Bugs-in-the-teeth Ferraris

Here’ a pair of limited-edition Ferraris sure to get collectors frothing. The single-seat Monza SP1 and dual-seat Monza SP2 Barchettas take design inspiration from Maranello’ early racing barchettas, like the 166MM from 1948, but are based on the mighty 812 Superfast, with that model’ fearsome V12 wicked up even further to 603kW. Crowd-stopper design elements include upwards-opening doors, and a forward-hinged bonnet to showcase the V12. Just 500 of the all-carbonfibre cars will be built for a yet-to-bedisclosed figure; deliveries from June 2019.

The shape of things to come

Although the original pop-up lamps have been ditched due to legislative issues, the PF0 still looks astonishingly clean. The flanks are unadorned by gaping intakes and the cabin seems shrink-wrapped between rounded arches, with three-point dihedral doors taking a chunk out of the roofline when opened. The teaser image shows the split wing elements, which sit above an active rear diffuser. The door sills are slim. As Perschke puts it, “you don’t have to be a trained yoga teacher to get into and out of it.”

Glickenhaus breathes life into Modulo

Often regarded as one of Pininfarina’ most iconic concepts, the Ferrari 512S Modulo is being given a fresh life by James Glickenhaus. Despite wowing crowds when it was first revealed at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show, and winning 22 design awards, the concept car was only ever a design project, and has never moved under its own power. Glickenhaus bought the car from the Italian design house in 2014, and debuted a betterthan-new version at Monterey Car Week last month, 5.0-litre Ferrari V12 and all.

Zed’s not dead

Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’ Senior Vice President for Global Design, let slip that a replacement for the ageing 370Z is on the way. “The Z-car, oh my god. Huge pressure,” Albaisa told Wheels when asked about his upcoming Nissan design work.

October next year marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Nissan’ ground-breaking 240Z, which lines up nicely with the Tokyo Motor Show, where it would be logical for the Japanese manufacturer to reveal a new Z-car.

Over Air Servicing

How to service a Pininfarina PF0 to the demands of highend clientele with no dealer network? Perschke has a solution. “Because the car is connected over the air, we can do a measure of predetection before the flying technicians are dispatched. It is sitting on a 4G or 5G network and we can look into the car and see what is really wrong. Is it something mechanical, electronic, maybe just a fuse – we can see if we need to dispatch a flying technician or can it be managed from a retail partner nearby.” It’s a model that has worked for the likes of McLaren and Rolls-Royce.