Bertone hits Shanghai, says museum car auction may not happen after all

Our friends at legendary Italian design house Bertone had a small group of us over to its headquarters in Caprie just to the west of Turin in order to shed greater light on what the company's current situation actually is. In brief, from the mouth of CEO Marco Filippa, contrary to reports that recent Fiat rumblings have put Bertone on the skids, the company is instead thriving in its own humble manner... sort of.

First sign of thrive-ery is the unveiling of three Bertone-executed showcar concepts at the upcoming Shanghai Motor Show, two of which are strictly for Chinese clients and a third being of potential global significance for General Motors' joint partner SAIC, known also as Shanghai GM. Bertone's holding company and Stile Bertone have signed up four of the top five Chinese brands for 2011 projects, along with a project with what some insiders say is BMW, and one more with the newly incorporated Fiat Industrial.

Awkward news reports insinuating that Fiat's pause in investing in the manufacturing facility it bought from Bertone in late 2009 – and the announcement of six Bertone museum pieces being put up for sale by RM Auctions at the upcoming Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este – had many people concluding that Bertone was desperate for cash. "Not the case at all," CEO Filippa has assured us.

Continue reading Bertone hits Shanghai, says museum car auction may not happen after all

First, the money-pit manufacturing arm of Bertone in Grugliasco near Turin was forced into liquidation in 2008 when the company went into administrated receivership. The whole factory and its work force now belong to Fiat Auto, so word that Sergio Marchionne recently announced delays in activating the plant does not at all affect Bertone's fortunes.

The entire Bertone museum of 90 cars was also signed over to the local commission handling the sell-off. At one point, Nuccio Bertone's wife, Lilli – just as she had found a way to hold on to Stile Bertone and the company archives, and also used her own money to buy back the Bertone trademark – offered the commission $7 million to get all 90 museum cars back in her garage. But the bankruptcy overseers stood firm on their $8.7 million asking price for the lot.

The widow Bertone then compromised by acquiring 84 of the 90 showcars and prototypes for $3.5 million. The remaining six cars combined are worth $5.2 million and are planned to be put up for sale by RM Auctions at late May's Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este in Italy: the 1967 Lamborghini Marzal that inspired the Espada, the Lancia Stratos that is an icon of 1970s design, the 1973 Chevrolet Corvair-based Testudo penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the 1974 Lamborghini Bravo, 1980 Lamborghini Athon and the 1978 Lancia Sibilo.

But many are the voices telling us that the auction might not happen at all. Lilli Bertone, along with many other influential figures in Italian car circles and politics are urging the courts to donate the six remaining cars to the newly remodeled National Automobile Museum in Turin. "These are such treasures that help celebrate the 150 years of Italian unification," says a Bertone source, "and no one wants to see them sold away and hidden in garages in the Middle East or Asia."

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