Paolo Pininfarina has become the CEO of Italy's legendary automobile company after his brother, Andrea, was tragically killed in a Vespa accident earlier this month. We pay tribute to the family's innovation.
Paolo Pininfarina, grandson of the founder of Italy's legendary automobile design dynasty, reveals a passion for creativity that goes beyond four wheels.
Trawling through the archives of automobile history, the impact of the Italian design dynasty, Pininfarina, over the last eight decades, is immeasurable. Founded in 1930 by Battista "Pinin" Farina, the Italian coach-builder combined a passion for car design with hand-craftsmanship, creating some of the most iconic automobile designs of the 20th century, from prototype to production. Even today the 1957 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, the company's premier high volume production model, still stands as a testament to the style and inherent talent of Pininfarina.
Following the founder's death in 1961 his son, Sergio, took the helm, taking Pininfarina's exalted skills into a new domain; industrial design. Today, with Battista's grandsons Andrea and Paolo Pininfarina in the driving seat, the company is divided into two: While the industrial hub, which continues to produce series vehicles, remains faithful to the company's past, under the leadership of Paolo, Pininfarina Extra srl has taken the firm's lauded patrimonial design style beyond the parameters of four wheels, into the realms of aircraft, helicopter and boat design, as well as appliance design for the world's leading manufacturers, from Motorola to Ferrari.
The company's latest breakthrough is the Sintesi, an electric powered concept car, due for production by 2009. Launched earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show, this forward thinking template for green efficiency continues the family's three generational legacy of visionary creative excellence, securing Pininfarina's future for the next.
Paolo Pininfarina's definition of luxury:
"Luxury can mean different things to different people. Luxury is functional if people buy luxury products for their superior functionality and quality. It's a reward if luxury goods are conceived as a status symbol, a way to be (and feel) successful. Luxury is also indulgence if people's desire is to express their individuality and make others take notice. Our goal at Pininfarina is to give shape to all these needs designing unique, exceptional and functional products able to generate to the final consumer a fascinating experience".
If luxury were...
Harvesting the grapes in my vineyard
Your father, Sergio, remains honorary Chairman of Pininfarina. Of all the models ever designed, which are his favourites?
I guess three models: the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider (1957) the first automobile produced in medium series by our Company, the Dino Berlinetta Spider (1965) the first mid-engine Ferrari and the Maserati Quattroporte, his last design masterpiece.
Which is the most successful area of the business?
Design for sure, automotive and industrial, but non automotive is very important in terms of brand extention, promotion and profitability.
Pininfarina is known for its outstanding design of concept cars, do many of these go into production?
Most of them remain concept cars but they often influence the design of the next production models in terms of detail or general architecture. One good example is the Ferrari P6, a 1969 prototype that strongly inspired the design of the Ferrari Berlinetta BB launched in 1971.
Are most of them intended for production, or are some created as a showcase for the company's design and innovation?
The majority of them are quite advanced and futuristic; so they are created as showcases.
What do you think of the quality and craftsmanship of today's cars?
In the past quality and craftsmanship were mainly due to the excellent manual character of the work. Now, quality is made possible by new processes, materials and technologies. The visual result is the same.
In general, for how long will the design team work on a new car concept?
A concept car design may be developed in three months; a production car design process is longer and it may last up to one year due to the different parties and departments involved (design, engineering, manufacturing, marketing).
The name Pininfarina has become synonymous with beautiful design and engineering excellence, what new techniques and processes are you currently exploring?
We are currently strongly engaged in the development of zero emission vehicles. The last concept car, the Sintesi, and the new electric car are tangible examples of our effort.
You've produced some iconic designs outside of the automobile sector, as well as impressive interiors. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good design?
I've been personally deeply involved in non-automotive design since the middle of the Eighties. As you say, some of my designs have become quite iconic. The reason of this success in the long term is the fact that these designs were quite innovative and advanced at the time of their launch. I believe that innovation and good design are strictly related.
How do you think that the market is changing in terms of design? What do you see for design's future?
Despite of the globalization of the market design is becoming often the reflection of local influences.
You are also involved in creating replicas, how much influence do you feel past designs have on current and future designs?
Replicas are not usual in our designs for production, but sometimes we develop this kind of projects, especially in the one-off cars for special clients. One example is the recent Ferrari P4/5 that was strongly inspired by two outstanding models of the Sixties: a racing car (P4) and a dream car (the P5).
Is there any area of design or production that Pininfarina is currently not involved in that you plan to explore?
Production is and will be limited to the automotive sector. In the area of design I believe that interior design is a very wide territory to explore. Think of the Pininfarina apartment, hotel, restaurant, SPA, museum, hospital etc.
You work on design and also manufacturing, have you ever considered launching independent products under the Pininfarina name?
For the moment it is confirmed that the first product for the market bearing the Pininfarina Trademark will be the Sintesi in 2009.
Eventually, other categories of products could be added to the car to strengthen its promotion.
How would you describe Pininfarina's design style?
Three key words: innovative, essential and elegant.
Would you describe Pininfarina's style as inherently Italian?
Pininfarina style is quite intriguing: it is advanced but classic, it is luxury but affordable, it is Italian but international...
What makes Italy a world design capital?
The reason is in the Italian heritage in terms of architectural, artistic and industrial tradition of excellence.
What does design mean to you?
My professional life
Which is your most iconic design?
I would choose the Snaidero kitchen Ola (1991) because it has been my first worldwide successful design and in almost 20 years it has demonstrated to become a classic and a milestone of Pininfarina design.
Who have been the most influential designers in Pininfarina's history?
More than influence from the exterior I would say most influential designers at Pininfarina have been the leaders of the design team that have followed one another through the years. Talented and skillfull people like Bianco, Martinengo, Martin, Fioravanti, Ramaciotti, Ottina and now Veermersch deserve a special mention. The strict relationship between these people and the Family has been generating successful designs in almost 80 years.