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When it comes to luxury and performance, many car buyers look to Europe. And Ferrari is at the top of many fans’ lists. Part of the reason the Prancing Horse is so beloved is that an array of its stunning supercars bear design elements from Pininfarina. Though Ferrari is a household name, most people are less familiar with Pininfarina. But this Italian engineering and design firm changed the way the world views Ferrari.

Ferrari and Pininfarina form a partnership

The partnership between Ferrari and the design firm officially began in 1951 when Giovanni Battista Pininfarina started designing for the Italian automaker.

As the story goes, the partnership barely materialized because Battista and Enzo Ferrari were both too stubborn to travel to meet with the other. Sergio Pininfarina, Battista’s son, persuaded the two to meet at a restaurant halfway between the Pininfarina factory and a Ferrari plant. The following year, they produced the Ferrari 212 Inter — a vehicle that set the bar for simple elegance and performance.

Among their notable creations is the 1996 Ferrari 550 Maranello, boasting a 0-to-62-mph time of 4.4 seconds, Goodwood Road & Racing reports.

Another impressive collaboration is the 2011 Ferrari FF, which turned heads upon its reveal. It doesn’t look like a traditional Ferrari, with a V12 and four-wheel drive — almost like an American muscle car. But the power and luxury are there, and a decade later, it’s considered a classic. Stretching the limits of what was possible under the Ferrari banner turned out to be the next step in innovation.

Pininfarina’s CEO dies in a tragic accident

The body of Andrea Pininfarina, CEO of the famed Italian car design firm, lies in the street after he died in an car accident in Italy in August 2008
Andrea Pininfarina’s body lies in the street after a crash near Turin, Italy, in August 2008 | Alessandro ALTAVILLA/AFP via Getty Images

CEO and engineer Andrea Pininfarina — Sergio’s son and Battista’s grandson — began working at the company in 1983. He climbed the company ladder until he took the CEO role in 2001. For seven years, he deftly guided the company through the 2000s. Under his leadership, the firm even designed the torch for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, The Guardian reported.

Unexpectedly, Andrea Pininfarina died in 2008 at the age of 51. In the early hours of August 7, 2008, near Turin, Italy, a 78-year-old driver collided with Andrea’s Vespa scooter, killing him instantly, Reuters reported.

Speculation that the Pininfarina family would no longer control the company led to a flurry of stock activity. Eventually, the family reduced its share from 55% to 30%, still enough to hold a controlling interest. Andrea’s brother Paolo took over as CEO briefly and then moved to the chairman role. The current CEO is Silvio Pietro Angori, and the CFO is Gianfranco Albertini.

The design firm soldiered on after Andrea’s death

Five years after Andrea’s death, Ferrari finally began work on a car that didn’t use any Pininfarina design elements. Aptly named “LaFerrari” (meaning “The Ferrari” or “The Definitive Ferrari”), the new vehicle was the first since 1973 to be produced independently of the Ferrari-Pininfarina partnership.

However, both parties stated this didn’t mark an end to their relationship. In 2014, Pininfarina helped design the Ferrari California T and the Ferrari Sergio (named for Sergio Pininfarina).

Last year, Pininfarina made headlines when news broke that it was designing a “Sustainable Luxury Vehicle,” or “SLUV.” Its other designs have included the eye-popping Pininfarina Battista, a 1,900-hp hypercar named for the firm’s founder.

As of 2021, the firm is exploring EVs and has produced concepts for the Pininfarina B0 and Bolloré.