TODAY THE GROUP PININFARINA POSSESSES ALL THE ELECTRONIC AND COMPUTERISED DESIGN, MANUFACTURING AND MANAGEMENT INSTRUMENTS AVAILABLE
That, indeed, is the new challenge the Group has decided to address with the utmost determination in these early years of the 21st century. For two reasons: first, out of a conviction that any achievement to date can only be a springboard to further endeavour and is never the end of the story; secondly, in the confident belief that the right way to achieve international expansion at a time of lively competition between constructors is constant empowerment of the Pininfarina brand by means of enhanced capacity and skills in the design of means of transport together with an expanded engineering capability and the production of niche models.
These are guidelines that have to be supported by an exceptionally flexible approach to partnership with manufacturers over the development of complete design projects or as the supplier of specific services. In both cases, the ability to contribute the strength of a tradition that is a marriage of manufacturing, technology, innovation and aesthetic research adds up to a unique talent, in the production field, for the creation of «exclusive» cars. Limited editions whose status as unique works of art derives precisely from their Pininfarina origins. Global partnership is obviously a complex business which involves every sector in Pininfarina and involves numerous phases. These start with the design process and are developed in a co-ordinated way through a process of creative research and they culminate in styling. Then, the activity of work groups that use sophisticated instruments like Computer Aided Styling (CAS) to create virtual three-dimensional models. The next step is product and process engineering using CAD, CAE and CAM systems, followed by testing, product industrialisation, construction of prototypes and finally mass production.
The process of design development which culminates in the establishment of the new model’s functional, aesthetic and technological characteristics starts with the identification of the specific needs the product is intended to satisfy. This initial activity is outlined in the briefing and in the issue of the product specification which details the fundamental requisites of the project and the guidelines for the implementation of the development cycle. Once those needs have been clarified and the client or end user and intended market identified, the next essential step in determining the «character» of a new product is careful analysis of the competition and of market trends and fashions, which is not necessarily confined to the specific automotive sector. It is also vital to start technological research right from the earliest exploratory styling phase in order both to minimise the time taken by the development process and reduce the number of modifications needed at later stages. At this point, analysis will help to direct the creative activities towards the feasibly innovative. Research then in every direction: into shapes and technologies, into materials and surface treatments all contributing to the final decision on the overall look and personality of the new product as well as its detailed characteristics. Through this process what started out as a general idea is formalised and, as phase follows phase, the car takes shape and acquires substance. Throughout this process absolute priority is assigned to quality, but never more so than in production which is where that quality becomes evident to the end user.
Today the Group possesses all the electronic and computerised design, manufacturing and management instruments available but even back in 1971 Pininfarina was one of the first to set up an automated calculation and design centre equipped with numerical control machines for automated car design. In 1972 it built the first full-scale wind tunnel in Italy, one of the few in the world at the time. Today 500 specialists work in the company’s design and engineering sectors and in 1999 it invested some 35 billion lire in research and development, a huge sum even for a company of this size and with these revenues. The company operates 150 CAS, CAD, CAE and CAM stations and the Acoustic and Aerodynamic Research Centre racks up 2,000 hours a year of work which includes 1,200 for outside clients and 800 on the company’s own research and development.
Pininfarina boasts five assembly lines, a sophisticated paint shop that can handle up to 250 cars a day, five finishing and assembly lines in plants reserved for particular clients’ orders in order both to maintain the necessary confidentiality and adapt to the philosophy of the individual manufacturer. The finished cars are then put through their paces on one of the company’s two test tracks before being sent off to the client’s own distribution network. The company’s current production on display at this year’s Turin Motor Show consists of five models: the Fiat Coup€, the Lancia k Station Wagon, the Peugeot 306 Cabriolet and 406 Coup€ and the Mitsubishi Pajero Pinin.
However, Pininfarina’s responsibility for the product does not end at its factory gates but extends to the car’s working life with the aid of a monitoring system that works hand-in-hand with the client’s own to keep a constant eye on the quality of the production process. One final detail that shows how much Pininfarina’s role has changed now that it has become not merely a supplier but a fully-fledged partner to the automotive industry.
The historical background
The Thirties and Forties. The ancient carriage evolves into the car and Battista «Pinin» Farina (the name Farina was changed into Pininfarina by Presidential Decree in 1961) into the creator of superlative cars built on chassis supplied by manufacturers either for individual clients or in limited editions. Then as now, the look was a matter of balance, purity and simplicity of line. With a bit of innovation thrown in. The 1947 Cisitalia 202 GT revolutionised car design and aerodynamic efficiency by incorporating the wings into the body.
The Fifties. That was when Pininfarina realised that the day of the specialist «coachbuilder» was gone and that the emergence of the bearing body heralded the company’s transformation into a fully fledged industrial outfit capable of mass production for outside clients like Alfa Romeo. The watershed model was the Giulietta Spider (28,000 produced between 1954 and 1965). The agreement with Fiat which supplied Pininfarina with chassis «on account of manufacture» made a significant contribution. Pininfarina also established special relationships with Ferrari and with Peugeot, both handled by Sergio Pininfarina himself. In 1958 the Grugliasco factory was opened and a whole series of collaboration agreements with constructors were established or consolidated.
Those relationships grew even stronger in the Sixties which was also when Pininfarina entered the new domain of research. And it is quite extraordinary how many cars came out of Pininfarina’s research into aspects of design and engineering. Working independently and in consort with organisations, constructors and technical partners, Pininfarina researchers engaged in projects related to environmental impact, safety, innovative material and technologies and urban mobility: and this was only the start of a story that was destined to run and run.
Meanwhile the Grugliasco factory built the Alfa Romeo Duetto and the Fiat 124 Spider, two models that raised the Pininfarina operation to an entirely new plane.
In the Seventies and Eighties, the Pininfarina research effort focused on aerodynamics and styling, which came to be seen as an integral part of design, that is of the complex engineering process. At the same time the company opened a new factory at San Giorgio Canavese where the Cadillac Allant€ was built. The Pininfarina company evolved into a fully fledged industrial group and was quoted on the Stock Exchange in 1986. The Group’s engineering and development operations strengthened and diversified and a new business sector was launched: product design.
In the Nineties Pininfarina was able to keep all its inherited values alive while entering the new territory of Total Quality, creating a New Organisation Model and overhauling its manufacturing facilities. The company also built another new factory in the Canavese district, this time at Bairo. That is where Pininfarina assembles the Pajero Pinin, which is the Mitsubishi model created for the european market.
Since 1930 a vast number of cars have borne the barred «f» that symbolises Pininfarina. A million cars have been built by Pininfarina itself over the past seventy years, but that is just a drop in the ocean compared to the forty-odd million units that have reached the roads of the world as the fruit of agreements with various manufacturers. Models of every shape and size: saloons, station wagons, spiders, coupés, berlinettas… Plus, of course, the prototypes and concept cars built by Pininfarina Studi e Ricerche at Cambiano on the outskirts of Turin. It’s a long list of noble cars, models with emotional impact, cutting edge concepts. Without delving too far back into the past, we could mention the great Ferrari berlinettas, the Lancia Flaminia, the Austin A40, the Morris 1100, the Alfa Romeo Duetto and Fiat 124 Spider, the Peugeot 404 and 504, the Fiat and Ferrari Dinos. And among concept cars, prototypes like the Florida, the Dino Berlinetta Speciale, the Ferrari 365P, 512S, Modulo and CR 25, the BMC 1800 and 1100, the Alfa Romeo P33 and Alfetta, the Jaguar XJS. And production models like the Ferrari Daytona, Berlinetta Boxer, 308 and 365 GT/4 including its 400 and 412 versions, the Fiat 130 coupé, the Lancia Beta Montecarlo and Gamma, saloon and coup€. Turning to the past twenty years we find the Ferrari Testarossa and 512 TR, the Alfa Romeo Spider, the Lancia Thema Station Wagon and the Peugeot 205 cabriolet.
And more concept cars like the Ferrari Pinin, the Audi Quartz, the Honda HPX, the Peugeot Griffe, the Alfa Romeo Vivace, the Lancia Hit, the Ferrari Mythos, the CNR E2, the GM Chronos, the Ethos, the Honda Argento Vivo, the Sing and Song models built on Bravo/Brava platforms and the Eta Beta. And we still have not finished. What about the Peugeot 405 and 406, the Cadillac Allant€, the Alfa Romeo 164, the Ferrari GTO, F40, F355 and F50, the Alfa Romeo Spider and GTV, the Ferrari 550 Maranello and 360 Modena, the Bentley Azure, the Peugeot 306 Cabriolet and 406 Coupé, the Ferrari 360 Spider and finally the latest of the concepts: the Fiat Wish and the Metrocubo prototype that introduces a whole new concept of urban mobility.
Pininfarina Studi e Ricerche set up in 1982 might be described as the natural evolution of the Style Centre that was built in 1966 on the foundations of the Experimental Division. Today it is a separate company that is one of the keys to any understanding of the Pininfarina Group’s role. Pininfarina Studi e Ricerche operates in the field of automotive design but also in the field of means of transport (Italy’s ETR 500 high-speed train and San Francisco’s famous tram are just two of its better known achievements) and works with other Group companies to offer its constructor clients other individual services such as styling, or the full product development package from first sketch to scale models and production prototypes, a process that will cover everything from product and process engineering to industrialisation for mass production.
The Cambiano Centre also investigates new technological and formal ranges which can be combined with the results of aerodynamic research to offer possible solutions to the problems of pollution, fuel consumption and traffic that afflict the modern motor car. One example is represented by the Ethos project: four different vehicles built between 1992 and 1995. But many more projects, many more bright ideas have become feasible realities thanks to the interdisciplinary approach adopted by Pininfarina’s creative artists and pragmatic engineers who work as a team to harmonise often conflicting requirements. The ability to guess and anticipate technological developments in every imaginable application sector is something that has never changed and never will in Pininfarina’s philosophy.
The Pininfarina role
In a world that is in such rapid industrial, technological and organisational evolution as the complex, globally competitive universe of motor manufacturing, it might seem that there’s no longer any room for the wonderfully reassuring fairytale endeavours of once upon a time, no longer any hope of a happy-ever-after storybook ending.
But it can still happen and the long tale of Pininfarina is a solid proof: a tale of tranquil succession from father to son and from son to grandchildren through the deep social, economic and technical changes that have developed in the past 70 years.
It is a tale of growth and transformation, of ideas and creativity that has often been ahead of the game, has never failed in its profound respect for the human and has demonstrated a unique ability to temper audacity with prudence and to home in on automotive problems and topics. Those aptitudes have enabled Pininfarina to evolve from a workshop where special bodies were hand-crafted into creations of unique aesthetic and technical content, into a major industrial group well-equipped to act in the automotive world as a global partner. And this role represents the challenge of the new millennium. It is a process of metamorphosis that marries apparently incompatible cultures and indeed draws strength and inspiration from the blending of different experiences. It all began in 1930 at 107 Corso Trapani, Turin when Pinin Farina set up shop with 90 workers and a capital of one million lire. In that first year Pinin’s tiny, 9,000 sq.m. factory turned out 42 cars.
Today that one-man band enterprise has grown into a major international enterprise, the Pininfarina Group, with its nine subsidiary companies, that was first quoted on the Stock Exchange in 1986, that can offer a whole range of different services to its car manufacturing partners and that boasts sales of 1,200 billion lire a year, employs 2,600 people in six different centres and production plants (covering a total of over 632,000 sq.m.) and turned out 45,000 cars in 1999.
The Group is controlled by a holding company, Pininfarina SpA whose Chairman and Managing Director is Sergio Pininfarina. That company controls Industrie Pininfarina (product and process engineering, car manufacturing) whose Managing Director and General Manager Andrea Pininfarina is supported by the other General Manager Renato Bertrandi; Pininfarina Studi e Ricerche (design, research, engineering and development in the transport sector) whose Managing Director is Sergio Pininfarina and its General Manager Lorenzo Ramaciotti; Pininfarina Deutschland (models, tooling, prototypes) whose Managing Director is Andrea Pininfarina; Pininfarina Extra (product design i.e. non-vehicular industrial design), Managing Director Paolo Pininfarina. The Group also boasts finance companies and studios in Europe and the USA. The person in charge of Communications at Pininfarina Spa, the holding company that inherited the mantle of Carrozzeria Pinin Farina, is Lorenza Pininfarina. It all helps to create a sense of the continuity that goes hand in hand with innovation in this company which still employs two generations of the Pininfarina family as part of a management team that handles the whole gamut of motor manufacturing activities. It is a highly diversified operative dimension whose projecting and technological tools, scientific instruments and manufacturing facilities are constantly being updated and whose field of action is constantly being expanded to create superlative products in partnership with leading industrial companies. In fact, what makes Pininfarina unique and different from any other company in the world is precisely this ability to combine the company’s traditions and its gradually evolving heritage of skills with the new needs of the automotive manufacturers, and to do so harmoniously and efficiently.
The Pininfarina Group can offer a full-line product development service that covers everything from design, engineering and development to industrialisation and production. The Peugeot 406 Coup€ is just one example of that full-line approach, but that is not the only one. Because Pininfarina can also offer any one of those phases in isolation. Design for example, whether in the creation of dream cars, in the longstanding partnership with Ferrari where the most recent product is the 360 Spider; or in the mass market, Pininfarina’s contribution to the design of the Daewoo Tacuma MPV. Or again, design, engineering and development: a prime example of that is the agreement with the Chinese company Hafei Industrial Group Co. over the development of a model which the Chinese company is now manufacturing at a rate of 100,000 units a year. Or industrialisation and production, as in the case of the Mitsubishi Pajero Pinin now manufactured in Pininfarina’s own new factory at Bairo in the Canavese district. In Pininfarina we find encapsulated all the very best of those qualities that have made Turin and the rest of Piedmont a centre of industry, design and engineering that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.
To put it another way, the Pininfarina client can obtain a «turnkey» car that is exactly what he had in mind in everything from styling to design and on to production processes: Pininfarina will even build it for him. Another client might simply want a shape. A third might turn to Pininfarina for manufacturing. It’s a «game» of combinations, shuffling the deck to find the right choice of everything from a niche model to a mass market car. And in every case backed by the guarantee of the Pininfarina name with all that implies in terms of work not just well done, but done with total passionate commitment to getting it right. In exactly the same spirit as Battista Pinin Farina created inimitably one-off masterpieces for his individual clients. That spirit has remained unchanged. What is also clear is that its cultural flexibility has become a powerful competitive plus for Pininfarina, as a company with comprehensive expertise. That expertise has been built up over time with the aid of distinctive traits like the Pininfarina passion for the product and the equally Pininfarina attention to the aesthetic, technological and build quality of the car as an object. All of that supported by a huge amount of research and analysis that over the years has given rise to more than sixty innovative concept cars, each making an important contribution to progress in automotive engineering and design.
Truth to tell, the experience Pininfarina has accumulated over 70 years in the business covers every aspect of the car. Nothing has been lost, the metamorphosis has been gradual and, most importantly of all, each new development has added to Pinin´s original legacy.
Text by: Clásicos al Volante.