Pininfarina CEO Silvio Angori smiles a lot. That's great to see after it seemed almost certain that the era of traditional design houses was gone forever. The fact that companies put more emphasis on design than ever before didn't stop Bertone from going bankrupt. Italdesign was absorbed into Audi; Zagato and Touring appear to be kept alive by little more than Aston Martin's license fees.
Between 2004 and 2013, Pininfarina didn't make a penny of profit either. Indian giant Mahindra came onboard as its main shareholder in 2015, and now, Pininfarina feels more alive than it was back when almost every Ferrari design (64 in total) had to be signed off by founderor his son, Sergio Pininfarina.
Angori says the company applied the hedgehog concept to get where it is today. At some point, employee headcount dipped below 500. So, the company kept a low profile and put its energy into figuring out what it could offer that's different.
Today, Pininfarina has 650 employees in Europe, 85 in India, and an additional 200 contractors worldwide. The company has also launched Automobili Pininfarina, a high-end electric car brand mixing Pininfarina design with Rimac and Mahindra EV know-how, ready for series production.
Automobili Pininfarina's first model, the ultra-limited PF0 hypercar promises 0-62 mph in under two seconds, a sprint to 186 mph in less than 12 seconds and a top speed beyond 250 mph—and a driving range greater than 310 miles. It will debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, and Pininfarina will build no more than 150 examples starting in 2020.
Pininfarina's ace in the hole is that the company can see a project through from the first sketches all the way to low-volume series production. It has the engineering talent, the tooling, and a wind tunnel that, despite being built in the 1970s, is "the benchmark" in the industry according to the CEO. Continuous upgrades mean Pininfarina's iconic "fanjet" can simulate ground effects up to 155 mph, including while cornering. Turbulent wakes are also on their list of expertise, and with low drag and sufficient cooling getting more important than ever with EVs, Pininfarina's facility is always running at high revs.
Currently, the automotive projects, together with other designs including trains, metros, and even transportation stations, represent around 80 percent of Pininfarina's revenue. That's expected to grow, along with the rest of the company's portfolio.
Angori says OEMs come and go in circles, and despite most of them having their own design studios nowadays, once their language starts to look tired, they often look up Pininfarina's number. Additionally, new automotive startups that don't necessarily have their own design teams also provide great opportunities for Pininfarina.
There's a number of projects we won't know about. Either because their clients wish not to communicate them, or because Pininfarina wasn't involved start-to-finish, and the designs evolved so radically that the company won't recognize them as their own. If the final result isn't coherent with their style, it simply can't be associated with Pininfarina, no matter where its journey began.
But while Pininfarina's services cover a wide range, from designing buildings to customer service experiences in which the physical object is just one small part of the entire design aspect, it's the cars we care about the most. Luckily, Automobili Pininfarina CEO about that side of the business.
With Rimac's help, Pininfarina's cars will start out as battery-electric vehicles, possibly switching to fuel cells once the technology allows it. Following their halo hypercar in 2020, their second product will follow in 2021, with the third coming a year after that. The brand is aiming for Ferrari-levels of output by that time, meaning annual volumes of around 10,000 vehicles.
Pininfarina's vehicles won't retail for anything less than six figures. Whether it's a hypercar, a "lifestyle" SUV, or anything in between, the brand wants to attract buyers who purchase Bugattis to park alongside their helicopters.
The good news for us, people who aren't often described as "brand evangelists"?
Pininfarina also has a somewhat more accessible