Times have been tough for European coachbuilders. Major automakers that once turned to these contract manufacturers for small production runs have since developed the capability to produce in scale. And before the coachbuilders could regroup, the recession hit, and the economy in Europe is still recovering.

That's how Volkswagen ended up taking over both Giugiaro and Karmann, and Fiat absorbed the manufacturing arm of Bertone. Ford long ago gobbled up Vignale and Ghia. But while their futures are now secure under larger corporate ownership, Pininfarina has only faced further setbacks.

Pininfarina had to sell the lion's share of its business to its creditors. And to make matters worse, its recovery started from even further behind than its rivals. After the turn of the millennium, Pininfarina switched to a new business model: rather than have the client automaker pay for development and production tooling up front, Pininfarina fronted the costs in exchange for a larger share of the revenues. But cars built under that pay-for-production scheme like the Alfa Romeo Brera, Ford Focus CC and Volvo C70 all failed to sell in the numbers needed to make them profitable for Pininfarina. To make matters worse, clients like Ferrari and Maserati that were once its most reliable partners have since been handling more of their design work in-house.

With the global economy recovering, Pininfarina is hoping to go back to its roots, rebodying upscale European cars for private customers. Recent examples have included Eric Clapton's Ferrari SP12 EC and the above-pictured Sergio concept that's tipped to see a small production run. Whether that's enough to keep a downsized Pininfarina solvent remains to be seen, but we're looking forward to seeing it try.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 7 Comments
      rtkewley
      • 1 Year Ago
      The days of the independent carrozzeria are drawing to a close. It's a shame - during their heyday (roughly the fifties through the seventies), they produced some of the most beautiful cars the world has ever seen.
        lasertekk
        • 1 Year Ago
        @rtkewley
        The coach builders stand in the face of the mundanity of cookie cutter corporate design. I was lucky to have a coach built car in my collection.
      waddup
      • 1 Year Ago
      Looks like a fish with its mouth open.
      Ez-Car
      • 1 Year Ago
      Those who cannot adapt will perish. It's how just about everything works. It would be a sad thing to see Pininfarina go the way of the Dodo. I may be wrong, does this have anything to do with the decades of focus on Ferrari, and not much else (unlike Giugiaro for example)? I hope they survive, even if under corporate tutelage. Eggs and baskets, never a good combo.
      Izaerian
      • 1 Year Ago
      I like the design overall, but I think a steeply raked and curved windshield would look better. A kind of Stratos redesign.
      ferps
      • 1 Year Ago
      There is lots of design work out there for start-up automakers in Asia. Perhaps that's where they should concentrate their efforts. It may not be as sexy as designing a Ferrari, but it's likely to be more steady work.
      AntBee
      • 1 Year Ago
      It would be a real shame to see such a storied company, such as Pininfarina, go under. I hope one of its Italian brethren comes to its rescue sooner than later.