Fears that 2009 will be the most tumultuous year in the global car industry since WW2 look to be well founded.
On New Year’s Day, Pinifarina announced that it was to abandon car manufacturing. It currently builds the Alfa Brera coupe and spider and the Ford Focus coupe-cabriolet and will wind-up all contract work by 2011 at the latest.
The move was part of a deal to reduce the company’s huge 600m Euro debts, with the Pininfarina family handing over 50.6 percent of shares to banks and losing control 78 years after the company was founded by Battista Farina.
Pininfarina is betting its future on electric vehicle production. From 2011 it will mass produce an electric car designed with French group Bollore.
There’s no news yet on the future of the Pininfarina design team and its long-standing relationship with Ferrari.
The exit of this iconic name from manufacturing marks the end of a disastrous year. In August Andrea Pininfarina, company chairman and CEO, was killed while riding his moped to work.
At the other end of the production scale, however, things look just as bad.
A few days ago Osamu Suzuki, president of Suzuki motors, shocked the Japanese markets by predicting that the country's ten large carmakers would soon have to be merged into three giants. Some analysts have already suggested that Honda and Suzuki would be a good fit.
A combination of a soaring yen and a global collapse in sales has hit the Japanese car industry extremely hard. Osamu Suzuki says he thinks that the worst is yet to come, with August marking rock-bottom sales for the Japanese.
It seems that a traumatic 2009 will force the whole car industry – from the biggest to the smallest – to undergo a fundamental transformation.