Italian design house overcomes family differences; appoints new MD
24 April 2008

The future of Italian design house Stile Bertone is now secure after family shareholders agreed to set aside their differences, appoint a new managing director and adopt a new business plan.Former Aprilia ‘bike chief executive Teresio Gaudio, who has been a consultant helping the Bertone family sort its business out, is the new managing director, and is already running the company with a new business plan.“We will now start to re-establish and market Bertone to the world’s car-makers as one of the premium design and engineering centres in the world,” says Gaudio.Currently on the books are a contract to design the exterior and interior of a small sedan for Chinese car-maker Chang‘An and two truck projects, one in China for CAMC, another for a Turkish truck-maker.Most recently Stile Bertone built the Saab 9-4X concept shown at January’s Detroit Auto Show.Bertone is likely to look for a major new customer to replace Chinese car-maker Chery. Gaudio says Chery shifted its allegiance in 2006 to competitor Torino Design, set-up by former Bertone boss Roberto Piatti, making a big dent in the business.The new business plan will re-focus Stile’s site in Caprie, northern Turin on high-value design and engineering services, rather than prototypes and one-offs. “We will still do this type of work, but the global car industry needs less of it,” says Gaudio.Gaudio says Stile is forecast to return to profit in 2010. The workforce has already been whittled down from 130 last summer to 95 today and it will be further reduced to around 80 by the end of 2008. Most of the jobs have been lost in the fabrication workshops.Although Stile Bertone is legally a separate company from the coachbuilder Carrozzeria Bertone, its future has up until now been tied to that of the factory because both are controlled by the family.Feuding inside the family and two aborted sell-offs of the factory have had a knock-on at the design business.The factory last built a car when the final Mini Cooper JCW GP rolled-off the line in 2007. It has theoretical capacity for 70,000 units.Its 1300 staff are being paid by the Italian social security system while the courts in Turin attempt to sell the factory to a buyer who will re-start production. Seven bidders are said to be possibles, including Chinese company First Auto Works and Italdesign.

Julian Rendell

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