Pininfarina SPA designed Peugeot's new 406 coupe and is manufacturing the car at its plant near Turin, Italy. The car goes on sale this month.
Peugeot and Pininfarina have collaborated for 50 years, mostly on design. This is the first time that Pininfarina has taken complete responsibility for a Peugeot product.
For the current 306 cabriolet, Pininfarina assembles the roof system and soft trim. Completed bodies are shipped to Peugeot's plant in Poissy, France, where the mechanical components are installed.
Pininfarina also builds the Fiat Coupe, the Lancia Kappa station wagon, and the Bentley Azure convertible.
Last July, Ferrari moved production of its 456GT in-house, leaving Pininfarina with no Ferraris for the first time in several years. In 1998, Pininfarina will begin production of a Mitsubishi sport-utility.
Manufacturing accounts for about 10 times the revenue of design, according to Pininfarina General Manager Lorenzo Ramaciotti.
Peugeot decided to give Pininfarina full responsibility for the 406 coupe midway through the development program, said Ramaciotti.
'We wondered about assembling the coupe at Sochaux but realized that with its low build numbers it could have hampered the volume models,' said Peugeot communications director Corrado Provera. 'So we asked Pininfarina if it was interested in producing the car.'
For Pininfarina the move meant a 'philosophical revolution in the realm of tooling,' said Ramaciotti.
'We were in no doubt about the achievements that were needed,' he said. 'The struggle for quality today is a very hard affair, and expectations on this model are very high.'
Pininfarina's installed capacity for the 406 is 70 units a day on a dedicated line. The line is currently being run at a daily rate of 60 units.
The design that was eventually approved was inspired by the 504 coupe of 1969, with its flowing line along the sides defining the front and rear fenders.
There were extensive discussions over the interior treatment, said Peugeot-Pininfarina liaison executive Eric Apode.
'The debate was over whether to carry over the 406 sedan's two-tone interior, with its pale lower half,' said Apode. 'The choice of completely black was taken to give a more technical, sporty feel; something less exclusive. Two-tone would also have made the door treatment difficult as it would have involved three colors.'
Peugeot's standard procedure for choosing a design is for two separate teams - one from Peugeot, the other from Pininfarina - to compete.
Management chooses one design, the two teams never seeing each other's work.
'However, this did happen once,' said product planning executive Christian Priser. 'We showed one to the other because we felt the creative ideas were good, but that they could go further with the inspiration of the other.'