Pininfarina’s BLUECAR : Rover reinvented?
Italy’s two most famous, but currently troubled, Automotive Design companies, Bertone Group and Pininfarina S.p.A., have both been in the news during the last week or so: Fiat S.p.A’s. bid for the Bertone Group’s dormant Contract Manufacturing unit, Carrozzerio Bertone S.p.A., was approved by Italian Industry Minister, Claudio Scajola, on the 6th August, 2009 – see ‘Fiat approved to buy Bertone coachbuilding unit’ Automotive News Europe, 6th August, 2009 – while the Pininfarina family, which controls Pininfarina S.p.A., has reportedly hired Italy’s Banca Leonardo to sell their majority stake in the company – see ‘Pininfarina hires bank to sell family stake’ Automotive News Europe, 7th August, 2009.
AROnline readers will note from the latter Automotive News Europe report that Tata Motors Limited, which already has a Joint Venture company with Fiat S.p.A. in India, may well be planning to acquire all or part of the Pininfarina family company’s 50.7 per cent stake in Pininfarina S.p.A.. Tata Motors’ interest in Pininfarina was first reported by The Times back in April, 2008 – see ‘Tata buys a stake in Italian Pininfarina’ The Times, 26th April, 2008 – and might possibly have been prompted by the latter company’s lead role in the development of the Pininfarina BLUECAR – the forthcoming product of a Joint Venture company owned by Pininfarina and France’s Bollore Group called Vehicules Electriques Pininfarina Bollore (VEPB).
VEPB was set up as a 50-50 Joint Venture at the beginning of 2008 with the purpose of designing, developing, manufacturing and distributing an electic car with ‘revolutionary technical features and formal qualities.’ The first production versions of the BLUECAR will roll off the assembly line at Pininfarina in Italy next year. However, full-scale production will run from 2011 to 2017 with the forecast output in 2015 being about 60,000 units per annum.
VEPB does not, as yet, appear to have any distribution channels in place for the BLUECAR. However, if Tata Motors did take a stake in Pininfarina, then the existing Jaguar and/or Land Rover Dealer Networks would clearly be able to provide ready-made distribution channels in America, Britain, Europe and elsewhere.”
Pininfarina describes the BLUECAR as an ‘elegant compact’ four-seater, five-door MPV powered by LMP (Lithium Metal Polymer) batteries which, when combined with supercapicitors and an automatic transmission, should provide a range of 250kms and can be recharged at an ordinary mains socket.
The BLUECAR’s performance ‘is in line with that of internal combustion vehicles in the same segment (B/C)’ while the location of the battery beneath the floorpan ‘responds to specific dynamic and passive safety criteria.’ However, a quick glance through the BLUECAR’s online brochure reveals that the car’s dimensions are: L: 3.65m W: 1.72m H: 1.60m – smaller than, say, the A-segment/City car Suzuki Splash/Vauxhall Agila – and that the model will be pitched as a Premium town car.
VEPB does not, as yet, appear to have any distribution channels in place for the BLUECAR. However, if Tata Motors did take a stake in Pininfarina, then the existing Jaguar and/or Land Rover Dealer Networks would clearly be able to provide ready-made distribution channels in America, Britain, Europe and elsewhere.
AROnline still regards Rover as a Premium/Luxury marque and reckons that a Rover-badged BLUECAR derivative would not only compliment the current and projected Jaguar and Land Rover product portfolios but would also provide serious competition for the likes of the Aston Martin Cygnet.
Hopefully, someone at either Tata Motors and/or Jaguar Land Rover will already be thinking along the same lines…