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Design firm Pininfarina acquired by Mahindra in $28 million deal

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Pininfarina badge on a Ferrari 330. Photo by Stephen Hennessey.

Over its 85-year history, Italy’s Pininfarina has been on the cutting edge of automotive design, penning memorable automobiles for the likes of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, Maserati, Cadillac, Opel, Peugeot, Nissan and others. On Monday, news broke that Tech Mahindra and Mahindra & Mahindra, both divisions of India’s $16.9 billion Mahindra Group industrial empire, signed an agreement with Pincar S.r.l. to purchase a 76-percent controlling interest in Pininfarina for 1.1 euros ($1.21) per share in a deal reportedly worth 25.3 million euros ($27.8 million).

The long-rumored deal came as good news for Pininfarina, which has struggled to return to profitability over the past decade. A downturn in the demand for external design services, coupled with a global recession, forced Pininfarina to tighten operations and undergo a series of restructuring moves, ultimately ceasing the production of automobiles and bodies in late 2011, though its joint-venture plant with Volvo in Uddevalla, Sweden, produced its last Volvo C70 in June of 2013.

Over its eight-and-a-half decade history, Pininfarina has designed nearly 1,000 automobiles. Best known for its relationship with Ferrari, dating to a 1951 meeting between Battista “Pinin” Farina and Enzo Ferrari, the company has styled or constructed models ranging from the 1952 Ferrari 212 Inter to the 2012 Ferrari F12berlinetta. The instantly recognizable shape of Ferrari models though the 1970s and 1980s, beginning with the 365 GT4 BB and carrying through to the 308, the 328, the 288 GTO and the 348, all began life on a Pininfarina drawing board, but the company also produced rolling sculpture for those of more modest means. Both the Alfa Romeo Spider and the Tom Tjaarda-designed Fiat 124 Spider were created by the Turin design firm.

The stock purchase gives Tech Mahindra, a division specializing in IT and engineering solutions, access to Pininfarina’s long-established European customer base. In exchange, Pininfarina will benefit from Tech Mahindra’s established presence in over 90 countries, potentially giving the design firm access to new customers and entirely new markets in industrial design. In addition to its automotive business, Pininfarina’s portfolio includes high-speed trains, buses, trams, yachts and airplanes, and the firm offers consulting services on everything from graphic design through architecture.

As penned, the deal will give Tech Mahindra a 60-percent ownership and Mahindra & Mahindra a 40-percent ownership, and once finalized, an offer will be made to purchase the remaining outstanding shares for the same price paid to Pincar. For Pininfarina, it will be business as usual under the new ownership, as the firm will retain its current listing on the Milan Stock Exchange and Paolo Pininfarina will retain his role as chairman of the board.