Known for designing some of Ferrari’s most stunning and iconic models – from the Dino 206 to the 458 Italia – Italian design house Pininfarina has a new owner.
And the Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group got a bargain on the deal, picking up deeply troubled Pininfarina for just $28 million, a quarter of what it closed for last Friday. But Mahindra plans to pump another $22 million into its new acquisition to help restore it to its former glory.
“You have to bear in mind that under this deal the company will be recapitalized and will have better growth opportunities,” Pininfarina CEO Silvio Angori told the reporters following the announcement of the sale.
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Founded in Turin, Italy in 1930 by Battista “Pinin” Farina – the company was known not only for its stunning designs but also for its use of cutting-edge technologies. It was the first coachbuilder to build bodies for unibody vehicles.
The design house has had its share of troubles over the years. Its factory was destroyed by Allied bombers during World War II. And when peace came it initially was denied an opportunity to display its work at the first post-War Paris Motor Show, so Pinin Farina and son Sergio found a spot near the convention center’s entrance and staged their own mini-show. Organizers didn’t make that mistake again.
Pinfarina lined up contracts at every end of the spectrum: for mainstream brands such as Hyundai, Fiat and Peugeot, as well as luxury marques like Alfa Romeo, Cadillac and Rolls-Royce. But it was with Ferrari that it became truly famous. Founder Enzo Ferrari knew how to pack performance under the hood, but it was Pininfarina that turned his cars into high-speed works of art.
It crafted such models as the 250 GT Berlinetta, the Dino 206 and 246, the 458 Italia and Ferrari’s most recent flagship, the LaFerrari, introduced at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.
But the bottom fell out as the auto industry went into a global recession, sending Pininfarina deep into the red. It had 47.4 million euros, or $51.7, in debt at the end of September. And, as part of the sale, Mahindra will cover the companies loans and bills, while also injecting $22 million to put the designer back on track.
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Part of the challenge will be to gain business back from one-time customers, however. Most of the firms Pininfarina used to work for now have their own design departments and are less likely to go outside except for special projects. The new Ferrari 488GTB, for example, was designed in-house.
Those changes in the industry also caught up with Pininfarina’s traditional Italian rival, Bertone. That design house went bankrupt in 2014 and in September, the widow of the late Nuccio Bertone announced she would sell off the rights to the firm’s name and the remaining cars in the Bertone collection.
Mahindra is one of the largest automakers in India and it first approached Pininfarina earlier this year. It has a reputation for buying troubled assets, including the small Korean carmaker Ssanyong. It will get the design firm for 1.31 euros a share, down from the closing price of 4.2 euros just last Friday.
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