How Pininfarina Became A World Leader in Car Design

Pininfarina Car Design

When car enthusiasts think of sleek, innovative, iconic design, Pininfarina often comes to mind. The storied car designer and engineering group has worked with some of the world’s most well-known brands.  Pininfarina was founded in 1930 by Battista “Pinin” Farina, who eventually, legally changed his last name to Pininfarina. The company’s headquarters have long been in Cambiano, Italy, but Pininfarina was first located in Turin, Italy.

Before branching off on his own in 1928, Battista worked for his brother’s coach building firm, Stabilimenti Farina. Soon after, Battista founded Carrozzeria Pinin Farina with financial backing from his in-laws and Vincenzo Lancia. May 22, 1930 marked the day that Battista filed papers to form his corporation, Societa Anonima Carrozzeria Pinin Farina, now known as Pininfarina.

During its earlier years, Pininfarina designed one of a kind cars for its customers, rather than mass manufacturing its designs. The company started out building car bodies for Cadillac, Fiat, Rolls-Royce, Lancia, and Alfa Romeo using unibody construction. World War II disrupted Pininfarina’s production and destroyed the firm’s equipment and manufacturing factory. However, Pininfarina was able to rebuild in the years following the war’s end.

The debut of Pininfarina’s latest design work after the war was almost halted after Italian automakers were banned from the 1946 Paris Motor Show. It was a major show that was attended by over 800,000 people, and Battista felt that it was a key opportunity to bring attention to Pininfarina’s newest creations. Battista and his son, Sergio, were able to command the Paris Motor Show crowd’s attention by parking two of their cars — the Lancia Aprilia Cabriolet and Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S — near the entrance to the exhibition. The exhibition’s organizers weren’t thrilled, but the public and the press were very impressed and looked forward to seeing more of Pininfarina’s work. The positive press from the show bolstered the firm and brought increased interest to Pininfarina’s cars.

Partnering with Ferrari


Many know Pininfarina’s name today because of their famous work for automaker Ferrari. This partnership began in 1951 during a meeting between Battista Pininfarina and Enzo Ferrari, and started the legacy of Pininfarina’s Ferrari design, construction, and engineering. Apart each company has created many noteworthy cars, but combining their talents together has resulted in the development of incredible automaking technology and engineering. Only a handful of Ferrari’s road going models have not been designed by Pininfarina since their partnership began. The Pininfarina and Ferrari families have a close relationship and Sergio Pininfarina, Battista’s son, sat on Ferrari’s board of directors for many years.

Explosive Growth and Modernization

After deciding to move to large scale manufacturing in the 1950s, Pininfarina grew significantly over the coming decades. Their designs became more well known within the auto industry and around the world, and this helped cement the company’s place as a prestigious automaker and designer.

Pininfarina started delving into the scientific aspects of car design during the 1960s, which paved the way for the company to set itself apart from other European automakers. Their research and study center, Studi e Ricerche, opened in 1966 in Grugliasco. A Calculation and Design Center followed in 1967, and this point started the evolution that would allow Pininfarina to become a leader in automated bodywork design during the 1970s. In 1972, construction of Pininfarina’s full-sized wind tunnel was completed, making the company one of the first car manufacturers in the world to accomplish such a feat.

During the 1980s, Pininfarina was able to expand, build more production and research facilities, and partner with other automakers around the world. Pininfarina made an agreement with General Motors in 1983 to build and design the Cadillac Allante. An agreement with Mitsubishi to engineer and design the Pajero Pinin compact SUV was reached in 1996. In 2003, Volvo and Pininfarina made a joint venture to produce the Volvo C70, a convertible sold in the United States and Europe.

The Road Ahead


In 1986, Pininfarina Extra was founded to work on projects outside of the transportation sector. Some of these design ventures include San Diego’s Keating Hotel, residential properties in Hallandale Beach, Florida and Miami, Florida, and Pininfarina Wine.

The company has also introduced electric car concepts, including the Pininfarina Bollore and Pininfarina B0. The concept for Pininfarina’s H2 Speed was unveiled in 2016 and is an electric sports car that runs on a hydrogen fuel cell.

For years, Pininfarina served as a designer, assembler, prototype tester, and manufacturer of vehicles for various automakers. In 2011, Pininfarina decided to stop all mass car production by 2013. This announcement coincided with Pininfarina’s sales of its 40% share in a Swedish production plant to Volvo. The last car to be produced at the Uddevalla, Sweden plant was the Volvo C70 in 2013. Pininfarina’s Grugliasco, San Giorgio, and Bairo Canavese manufacturing plants were either sold, leased to other automakers, or are now used to produce spare parts for car models that the company used to manufacture. Though the firm no longer serves as a mass auto manufacturer, it is still heavily involved in design work.


Decades after its explosive growth in the 1980s, Pininfarina started to restructure its mounting debt in 2008. This followed years of significant profit losses during the economic downturn that affected the world during that time. In 2014, Pininfarina was acquired by Mahindra group, which owns the Indian auto company Mahindra & Mahindra. In addition to buying Pininfarina’s stock, the Mahindra Group agreed to invest millions into Pininfarina and guaranteed its creditors over 100 million euros.

Pininfarina Sergio Concept Car

Famous Designs and Collaborations

For decades, Pininfarina has designed yachts for companies such as Magnum Marine, Azimut, Pershing, and Fincantieri. The company has also partnered with mass transit manufacturers to design high speed trains, commuter lines, and trams.

Pininfarina has become known for its collaborations with prestigious brands that are not involved in transportation. The group designed collections for appliance manufacturer Gorenje, SimpleTech, several major pieces for the 2006 Winter Olympics, and served as the designer of of the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.

Some of Pininfarina’s most famous and iconic automobile designs include the 1960 Peugeot 404, 1987 Alfa Romeo 164, 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider, and 2008 Maserati GranTurismo. The company is especially known for its Ferrari designs, some of the most notable being the 1968 Ferrari 365 GTB/4, 1984 Ferrari Testarossa, 1987 Ferrari F40, and 2006 Ferrari P4/5.

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