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Italy mourns Ferrari designer genius Pininfarina

Gifted automobile creator who turned down a job with American car manufacturer Henry Ford to set up his own company has died near Turin at the age of 85

The Italian godfather of car design, Sergio Pininfarina, who crafted sleek Ferrari race cars and revolutionising the common auto, died in Italy’s motoring capital Turin on Tuesday aged 85. Born in 1926 near Turin in the industrial north of the country, Mr Pininfarina worked with top carmakers during his long career, designing the Ferrari Testarossa, Fiat 124 Spider and Maserati GranTurismo, among others.

Mr Pininfarina had “innate talent”, said Prime Minister Mario Monti, adding that the designer “combined the beauty and the quality of the Italian sprit”.

His death was mourned by many in the car and design industries. “His genius brightened the history of the car,” Fiat said on Twitter, while the head of Maserati, Harald Wester, said “Italy has lost one of its most prestigious world ambassadors, and Maserati has lost a great friend”.

Sergio Marchionne, the head of Fiat, which owns Ferrari and Maserati, said: “Ferrari would not have been Ferrari without him”.

Ferrari head Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said: “His talent and his sense of elegance always prevailed.

“His brand, his skills, his name were known throughout the world — from Japan to the United States.”

Mr Pininfarina joined the family car design company after graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, and quickly became involved in all aspects of the business, from designing cars to engineering and manufacturing.

Determined to change the common perception of cars as merely functional, Sergio rose to stardom with beautifully sculptured, blood red Ferraris, from the 410 SA to the Dino Berlinetta Speciale, Ferrari F40 and Enzo Ferrari.

He also applied his talent to less exotic Peugeots, Volvos and Mitsubishis.

Mr Pininfarina “led the company with steady hand... following the tradition of elegance and style constantly renewed with the highest standards of innovation and harmonious beauty,” his company.

He had a passion for forward-looking technology, becoming an early supporter of reducing car emissions and increasing fuel economy. In 1972, he opened the first wind tunnel in Italy, one of the few in the world at the time.

Mr Pininfarina was awarded dozens of honours, including four university degrees in fine arts and industrial design.

He inherited his love of car design from his father, Battista Farina, who founded the company in 1930 and built his reputation by sculpting eye-catching designs for many of the best known post-war sports cars.

Farina senior, who was the tenth of 11 children, named the company after his nickname “Pinin” — which means “little one” in Piedmontese dialect.

He was famed for having met Henry Ford on a trip to the United States in 1920, where he turned down a job with the Ford Motor Company to return to Italy and create the Pininfarina empire.

In 1960, Farina senior appointed his son to the post of general manager and in 1966 Sergio took over chairmanship of the company.

Forty years later, Sergio in turn handed over management to his son, Andrea, who died after being hit by a car.

In 2011, the company announced it was stopping production because its revenue plunged in a sector reeling from the financial crisis, but has continued to design and engineer, with a particular focus on electric cars.

Mr Pininfarina was head of Italy’s business association Confindustria from 1988 to 1992 and was named senator for life in 2005. He is survived by his wife Giorgia and two children Lorenza and Paolo.

“He was one of the greats of Italian industry, an example of ‘Made in Italy’ known around the world. This is a great loss,” said Giorgio Squinzi, head of Confindustria.

The Cisl trade union also paid tribute to a man they said had been “a constructive and attentive interlocutor.”

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