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.