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Italian Design Flair PDF Print E-mail
The name Pininfarina evokes images of some of the most beautiful Ferrari models ever produced; from the Dino of the Seventies, through the Enzo muscle-car, right up to the current 458 Italia.  Yet Pininfarina, based in Turin, has also designed a multitude of rather more mundane motor cars.  The line-up includes the Alfa Romeo Spider, Peugeot’s 406 Coupé, the delectable Fiat 130 Coupe and the current Maserati Quattroporte.  Incredibly perhaps, the company can also boast the Cadillac Allante from the Eighties and the Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn of 1951.
The company was founded in 1930 by Battista Farina, better known in the automobile industry as ‘Pinin’.  Although better known for its designs for many of the world’s leading motor manufacturers,  Pininfarina has also had a hand in designing trams and buses in various parts of Europe, including Spain, Switzerland and Greece.
Although based in northern Italy, Pininfarina now has subsidiary offices in other parts of Europe, as well as China and Morocco.
China is of course, the world’s largest – and fastest growing - car market and it was at the 2006 Beijing Motor Show that a Pininfarina-designed model, the Brilliance Junjie saloon, made its debut, winning the ‘Best New Car’ prize in its class.  At the 2008 show, the Junjie station wagon, designed and engineered by Pininfarina was launched, enabling Brilliance to enter the premium sector for the first time.
In 2005, Pininfarina began working with the Chery brand.  With the Chery M14 model, Pininfarina was the first to introduce a coupe-cabriolet with a retractable hard top for the Chinese market.  At the 2005 Shanghai Motor Show, the M14 won the ‘Best New Car’ award, as voted by the automotive press.
It should be noted that Pininfarina was the first independent Italian design house to sign an agreement with the Chinese motor industry in 1996, an important milestone given the significance of this burgeoning market.  Over the years Pininfarina has expanded its activities and now counts a number of Chinese motor manufacturers among its clients, including AviChina, Changfeng and JAC, as well as Chery and Brilliance.  Because of these close liaisons, Pininfarina decided to open a permanent office in Beijing, as well as, in 2010, a centre in Shanghai at the newly-developed Shanghai International AutoCity Development (SIAD).
Entitled the Pininfarina Automotive Engineering (Shanghai) Co., Limited, this is a product development centre that allows the company to deal with engineering activities on behalf of the Chinese OEM, as well as being able respond rapidly to the growing needs of the market.

Wide Range of Manufacturers
Although Fiat and Ferrari are the best known of Pininfarina’s clients, perhaps because of their geographic proximity, what is perhaps surprising is that the company has worked closely with a number of other manufacturers, including General Motors in the United States, as well as British manufacturer – now defunct – Austin.
In 1930s, GM’s then vice-president paid a visit to Pininfarina in Turin where he realised the importance of the future of automotive styling.  In 1947, International Motors of Los Angeles asked Pininfarina to design a number of special car bodies for General Motors’ models. These were destined for many of Hollywood’s stars and its many film magnates.
There are many instances of recognition by the United States: Battista Pininfarina was received by President Eisenhower on one of his visits; and in the mid-1950s, GM president Harlow H. Curtice sent his congratulations to Pininfarina for the design of the Buick Lido.  The roof of this model rose automatically as the door was opened to facilitate entry into the vehicle.
Although long since bankrupt, the most famous Austin models from Pininfarina included the A40 and the Austin A55 Cambridge.  Other surprising models to emanate from the distinguished Italian design house include the Rolls-Royce Camargue and the Volvo C70.

The Man Himself
Image The design inspiration for Pininfarina, the company, came of course from the man himself: Battista “Pinin” Farina.  Created as Società anonima Carrozzia Pinin Farina in 1930, the company was run by Battista’s son Sergio Pininfarina until 2001, and then his grandson Andrea.
Sergio Pininfarina was the brains and the inspiration behind the company for 40 years, establishing Pininfarina as the world’s leading styling house, as well as the engineering company to whom many motor manufacturers turned to create the ever-popular, folding hard tops that are appearing on so many different vehicles.  This engineering challenge is one of Pininfarina’s specialities and one that will continue to grow.  
Sergio Pininfarina died in Turin in July 2012 aged 85.
 
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© 2018 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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