END OF AN ERA: From left to right, the legendary Battista Pininfarina, Enzo Ferrari and Sergio Pininfarina shown together in an undated image. IMAGE: Ferrari
Milan, Italy - Sergio Pininfarina, whose family company designed almost every Ferrari since the 1950's and whose name is still synonymous with some of the world's most glamorous cars, has died at 85.
The company said on Tuesday he died during the night in his Turin home.
Pininfarina had been groomed by his father Gian Battista, a one-time Turin carriage-maker who founded the influential car design house in the 1930's, since he was a child to succeed him in the business .
Sergio Pininfarina was born in 1926. He joined the family firm after graduating in mechanical engineering from Turin's Polytechnic University, became chief executive in 1961, and chairman when his father died in 1966. By then the company had already risen to prominence through its knack for making the latest aerodynamic design trends attractive to a broader public.
The family's prestige in Italy was such that it was allowed to change its name to Pininfarina from the original Farina - Pinin, meaning "the little one" in Piedmont, was Gian Battista's nickname - with a presidential decree in 1961.
The ground-breaking 1947 Cisalfa coupe, designed by Gian Battista "Pinin" Farina after the Second World War, now sits in New York's Museum of Modern Art. It was one of Sergio's favourite models.
Gian Battista also initiated the Ferrari connection in 1952 but Sergio ended up managing most of their common projects and turned the business from craftsman level into a world-renowned name. In his half-century reign at Pininfarina, the company's automobile production rose from 524 a per year to more than 50 000.
Besides the historic partnership with Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati (all owned by Fiat ), Pininfarina also designed cars for Rolls-Royce and other non-Italian brands. The 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Rondine, 1986 Cadillac Allante, 1995 Bentley Azure and 1996 Peugeot 406 Coupe (designed by Sergio) all wore the Pininfarina badge.
Sergio also designed the 1986 Fiat 124 Spider, 1984 Ferrari Testarossa, 2002 Ferrari Enzo, 2003 Maserati Quattroporte and the 2004 Ferrari Scaglietti. TOUGH TIMES
Sergio Pininfarina stepped down to become honorary chairman in 2006, just before the financial crisis which hit the car industry hard. Many small builders, such as Germany's Karmann and France's Heuliez, did not survive. Other design firms downsized and Italdesign - another leading Italian stylist - was acquired by VW.
Pininfarina was forced to raise capital in 2009, re-negotiate its debt and shrink its business. It had to close its manufacturing operations and reinvent itself as a smaller niche design player with the family's 77% stake in the company used as collateral for loans which must be repaid by 2018.
Pininfarina said in May, 2012 that it expected in 2012 to post its first profit since 2004.