IT’S virtually impossible to disentangle the histories of Pininfarina and Ferrari. The fate of the styling house formed by Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina was inexorably changed in 1951 when, in a small restaurant in Tortona, Farina and Ferrari met.
Since that discussion over coffee, every Ferrari road car bar the 1973 308 GT4 and the 2013 LaFerrari have been Pininfarina designs. Now there has been a still more seismic shift in the ambitions of Pininfarina. At this year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, it displayed the styling buck for its PF0 (‘PF zero’) electric hypercar. Pininfarina is now a manufacturer in its own right.
That’s the story the company would want you to believe, in any case. Speak at length to CEO Michael Perschke and you’ll come away filled with visions of a burgeoning product portfolio of high-concept, high-performance EV sedans, SUVs, coupes and shooting brakes, giving the likes of Lamborghini, Bentley and, yes, Ferrari something to contend with. Despite staggering from one debt restructuring and asset sale to another post-GFC, money isn’t a problem. That’s because since 2015, Pininfarina has been bankrolled by the financial might of Mahindra. An initial €25.3m investment bought a 76 percent stake in the company. Since then it’s estimated that another €500m has poured into Pininfarina, but it’s important to separate the new from the ‘old’.
Anand Mahindra, the Group Chairman of the Indian powerhouse conglomerate, explains a subtle but important distinction. “Pininfarina SpA is a design and engineering service provider not only for automobiles but for the transportation sector as a whole, plus product design and architecture. Automobili Pininfarina is a new company that will use the Pininfarina brand to produce a hyper electric car,” he says.
“Automobili Pininfarina is a 100 percent subsidiary of Mahindra & Mahindra, while Pininfarina is jointly controlled by Mahindra & Mahindra and its Tech Mahindra engineering subsidiary.”
When asked whether creating its own super sports cars would jeopardise Pininfarina SpA’s existing business, Mahindra claimed that the initial investment “has not deterred customers so far”. Expanding further he said, “Before we completed the transaction, I spoke with [Ferrari Chairman] John Elkann … Ferrari does its buying with challenge rounds internally and externally; John reassured me that Pininfarina always is a competitor. That was a key element in helping me decide whether we should go ahead.”
Rather than rely on the good graces of Maranello, Pininfarina has looked across the Adriatic to Croatia and, more specifically, Rimac. The PF0 will use the mechanical architecture of the Rimac C_Two, Perschke confirming that it will have an identical output of 1407kW and 2300Nm. It’s likely that the hypercar will also utilise Rimac’s 800-volt electrical architecture and 120kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The quad-motor architecture with the rear wheels augmented by separate dual-speed gearboxes is a given, and the performance targets of sub-two-second 0-100km/h time, 300km/h dispatched in 12 seconds and a 400km/h top speed are not fantasy, given Rimac’s technical lead in battery density. Nor is the target 515km range.
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Automobili Pininfarina plans to build 150 PF0s, fully 50 more than originally stated. Perschke claims that “the response has exceeded all our expectations,” with pricing estimated to be around A$2 million. The model at Pebble Beach had no functional interior, and its public unveil is set for the 2019 Geneva show in March. Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the vehicle is that in artfully dressing another manufacturer’s underpinnings, the PF0 has come full circle, returning Pininfarina to the coachbuilding tradition of its origin. Design director Luca Borgogno summed up its essence. “Soprattuto deve essere bella.” Above all it must be beautiful.’