'Nothing impedes us to think that we will have our own products with our own brand.'

by Sumantra B Barooah Dec 15, 2016

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In an exclusive interview Silvio Pietro Angori, CEO, Pininfarina talks candidly to Sumantra B Barooah about the future of the iconic design house after its acquisition by Tech Mahindra. And it doesn't involve only cars.

What does the road ahead look like for Pininfarina after it has become a part of the Mahindra Group?

Well, first of all let me tell you that we’re very proud that we are part of the Mahindra family. We see major opportunities going forward for Pininfarina to contribute to achieving the vision that the Mahindra group has.

The way in which we will contribute is bring in the experience that we have built up over 86 years of designing cars. But not just designing cars, but even engineering them and manufacturing them. And beyond and besides automotive, we have a very strong growing activity in which the DNA of our brand is used to conceive not only products, but even services that will be towards the consumers and users. That is the major shift that the industry overall is going. Not just the automotive industry, but all other industrial segments that are going through.

What could be some examples?

Well let me tell you this, the world is moving from an economy of ownership to an economy of sharing. This means that then customers, clients are not just buying a product. Or maybe they are not any longer buying a product, they are buying a service. In the case of a car, they would be buying a mobility service. What it means is that you have to make sure that the brand equity, that OEMs are built over dozens of years, in certain cases hundreds of years is kept, is maintained to make sure that the clients that are using a mobility service, will be then loyal to that brand. And therefore then that goes beyond the product as such. It goes towards the experience that the consumer will have in the product. And that is essential and this is where the Mahindras, tech Mahindra in particular, comes into play. Because Tech Mahindra is offering services in a large variety of different industries where the factor is a service already, not a product. And therefore what we can do jointly, is design customer experience in a way that is unique for the ultimate user. And the point is, this is where the differentiating factor comes into play, we as Pininfarina have our own design values- purity, elegance, innovation that makes the essence of our brand. But this means that according to these design values we can adapt and give our interpretation of other brands. And in addition to this one, we can then help tailoring services in such a way that the experience that the end user goes through is unique and make a difference in the market.

Pininfarina has had such a rich history. Some of the most established automotive brands have benefited from it. When can we see the first impact of this in a Mahindra product, for example?

(Laughs). Well you know what, we have been working for Mahindra since more than six years already. And therefore it is not something that will come. It has already happened and I am not privy to elaborate on which specific model we’ve been supporting the Mahindras as a brand. It is a fact that we’re working with them since many years. And that I think indeed has been even at the foundation of the decision for them to acquire us and vice-versa for our shareholders to agree that this would be the best ever relationship to engage with.

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How do you see electric mobility, both from a design perspective and also its role in the changing mobility solutions scenario?

Electric mobility is going to play a major role, going forward, for a few reasons. First is the most obvious one that is the emission problem, the pollution. But an electric vehicle (EV) is not the answer because it is difficult that a consumer will buy a car that will cost today maybe 30 percent more than an internal combustion engine because of his love for the environment.

The other reason is that electric vehicles will be much more part of an integrated digital world. Because an electric vehicle, if you think that 80 percent of a car's life is spent while parked means that you have a tremendous amount of energy stored somewhere. Why not use that? So in a world that is going to be very frugal in order to not consume natural resources, then that would become another reason as to why the electric vehicles will fly.

The other element is that large cities will see more and more congestion problems. But because we are going most likely towards mobility services, electric vehicles are cheap. Once you have a scale effect, they will be cheaper than cars with internal combustion engines. So that would resolve another issue, another economic issue, right? So there are several reasons as to why electric vehicles will take off. It will take a bit of time. I don’t think it’s going to be happening tomorrow. But you’ve seen when big players come into play then the radical changes happen.

Pininfarina has lent its services to designing some very attractive two-wheelers too. Would you be designing for Mahindra two-wheelers also?

Again, without disclosing anything, you can imagine that any product that you can think of is a good bench for us to do an exercise. And certainly that one is one of those where we have experience and we have done wonderful things with the brand in the recent past.

From a Pinanfarina perspective, it’s entered a new phase after this relation with Mahindra. What is your vision now?

The vision is that I am deeply convinced that design makes the world a better place. This means that the vision that we have is to simply continue to conceive the future according to the design that is the combination of aesthetics and functionality. Therefore innovate in every single thing that we think of, but with beauty as a supporting and deciding factor, this is our vision.

In terms of business vision certainly we have in mind that we could grow this business multiple times, for a couple of very simple reasons. First, when you think about automotive, automotive is going through a major, radical dramatic change, for the reasons that I have explained before. This means that the largest OEMs have first to focus on the emerging technologies. They need to become service providers and therefore in so doing, they need, for instance Tech Mahindra services to support those new things to do. Equally they would look at us for what they do traditionally all the mechanical engineering work or the  electrical/electronic work. That is then a major opportunity that we have in front of us, as Tech Mahindra and Pinanfarina.

The second reason as to why I see a bright future is because this brand equity that has been built over many many years has to be somehow transformed into loyalty for customers that then would still be in need of a line that is connecting the past to the future. And we are going to be a part of this future, we will be designing this future. And this is not going to be just in automotive.

There is a third one that I have not yet mentioned. We as Pininfarina have such a large brand equity. So far we’ve gone into designing products and services. And maybe allowing others to use our designs. In the future we may want to think that we are extracting additional value from our brand. We will be more into licensing, for instance. Because we are yet today producing intellectual property and that intellectual property is a virtual equity that can be transformed into revenue.

Hypothetically speaking, what could be some examples?

It could be products that have nothing to do with automotive. For instance, we have designed products such as luxury bags, kitchen furniture and so forth. We have done that for other brands, so this is being co-branded. Nothing impedes us to think that we will have our own products with our own brand.

This interview was conducted in October 2016.

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