TURIN -- VW-owned design and engineering firm Italdesign is undergoing a renaissance as an independent vehicle developer after increasing the amount of business sourced from outside the German group to 20 percent of its total, the company has said.
Italdesign, based in Turin, was bought by VW in 2010 and was initially locked into work just for VW, but since been able to tout for business outside the company.
“We were able to convince other OEMs they can trust us,” Antonio Casu, chief technical officer for Italdesign told the audience at the Automotive News Europe Congress on Wednesday. “We came from less than 2 percent four years ago to more than 20 percent.”
Italdesign was started in 1968 by Giorgetto Giugiaro and Aldo Mantovani and is one of the iconic Turin ‘carrozzerie’ that designed, engineered and sometimes built cars for famous European brands.
The firm fell into decline towards the end of the last century after automakers found that outsourcing work to design houses was becoming too expensive compared to their newly efficient operations. Italdesign is becoming relevant again by increasing capability to develop a production-ready car from scratch, it said. The firm’s heritage is also a draw. “Today’s new customers like classic Italian design,” Casu said.
Customers include car firms from the far east. Earlier this year Italdesign announced it had won a commission to design two new minicars, one fully electric, for start-up Vietnamese car maker Vinfast. It will also design an SUV and a sedan for the company. Other commissions remain confidential it said. Past work for the VW Group includes engineering the Audi Q2 compact SUV.
Last year Italdesign unveiled a hypercar called Zerouno to be built at its Turin HQ under the Automobili Speciali brand name. The five coupes and five roadsters cost from 1.5 million euros plus taxes and were designed and built in 18 months from the Audi R8 platform. They were created in part to show off its prototyping skills to automotive clients. “In this company there is passion and the supercar is one way to explain that passion,” Filippo Perini, head of design, told the congress audience.
Italdesign also fulfills commissions for industrial design under the name Giugiaro Design. Examples of its work include cameras for Nikon, trains for Alstom and chairs for the Okamura Corporation. The firm has said it wants to increase its non-VW business to 50 percent by 2021. At the Geneva auto show last year, Italdesign showed a concept for a flying car with detachable rotors conceived in partnership with Airbus. The concept was updated with Audi badging this year.
Pininfarina is another Turin Carrozzeria experiencing a rebirth. The company was taken over in 2015 by India’s Mahindra & Mahindra who purchased a controlling 76 percent stake. The company earlier this year announced it sell cars under the name Automobili Pininfarina.