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DATE News (chronologically)
12/31/08
automotive
Pininfarina sports car family loses control  The Pininfarina trademark is as much a part of a Ferrari Testarossa as the V-12 engine, but ownership of the name that spells Italian sports car design has been forfeited in a mountain of debt.

The founding family of Pininfarina has lost its battle to keep control of the design firm and boutique car manufacturer. After months of wrangling, a banking syndicate led by Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit have agreed to reschedule debts of almost €600 million (£575 million), but the family must sell its 50.6 per cent stake in the company.

Potential buyers of the stake are thought to include Vincent Bolloré, the French tycoon who a year ago established a joint venture with Pininfarina to build an electric car. Ratan Tata is also believed to be interested, but the head of the Tata industrial conglomerate is already embroiled in the financial rescue of his recent acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover in Britain.

Established in 1930 in Turin, Pininfarina put the streamed lines on classic Italian cars, including Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo models. Many of its designs acquired celebrity status, among them the Nash-Healey roadster, which was driven by Clark Kent in the original 1950s Superman television series. Pininfarina's 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider was famously driven by Dustin Hoffman in the classic film The Graduate.

More recently, it teamed up with Ford to produce a cabriolet version of the Focus. But it is the business of making cars, not designing them, that became the company's Achilles' heel. While rivals such as Bertone, a fellow Turin design house, abandoned manufacturing, Pininfarina maintained a sizeable coachwork business. Half of its 2,600 payroll build cars, including the Alfa Romeo Spider and the Streetka, a coupé version of the Ford model.

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