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Volkswagen has designs on Italdesign

Sleek lines: Lamborghini's sleek Gallardo was designed by Italdesign, which has been snapped up by Lamborghini on behalf of VW.

Italian styling house becomes exclusive VW shop as design legend Giugiaro sells up

Volkswagen logo26 May 2010

LIKE the man who liked the razor so much he bought the company, Europe’s biggest motor vehicle manufacturer, Volkswagen Group, has bought its favourite Italian design house, Italdesign Giugiaro SpA.

VW subsidiary Lamborghini Holding SpA acquired a 90.1 per cent stake of Italdesign for an undisclosed “substantial” sum on behalf of VW, with the Giugiaro family – namely founder Giorgetto Giugiaro and his son Fabrizio – retaining the remaining 9.9 per cent.

The deal means that the VW Group will have exclusive use of Italdesign to the exclusion of all other car companies such as BMW and Alfa Romeo, but Mr Giugiaro said Italdesign had offered to finish current projects such as the Mini Roadster and Coupe.

Pledging an expansion of design capacity of the celebrated Turin design and automotive engineering company, VW says it will intensify its successful co-operation with the studio, which it has nominated for a “global model initiative”.

The partners are already working on VW’s upcoming 2011 Up! city car family, which is likely to define VW over the next decade as it makes the switch to alternative powertrains.

The Lupo replacement will include E-Up! – VW’s first mass-produced electric car, in 2013.

 center imageLeft: VW chairman Martin Winterkorn and Giorgetto Giugiaro seal the deal. Centre: The Giugiaro-designed Golf MkI. Below: The VW Up!-Lite concept.

VW and its various brands, including Audi, Bugatti and Lamborghini, have had a long association with Italdesign and Mr Giugiaro, who famously helped to reinvent the German giant by penning the first, super-successful VW Golf in the 1970s.

Among other famous designs for the German group were Volkswagen’s Passat and Scirocco and the Audi 80, as well as the Lamborghini Gallardo.

The move by Mr Giugiaro to sell off most of the company he founded with Aldo Mantovani in 1968 after working with other major Italian design houses Bertone and Ghia, is seen as an exit strategy for the ageing stylist, who is approaching his 72nd birthday.

Announcing the takeover in Turin, VW AG chairman Martin Winterkorn said Italdesign had one of the richest traditions in the automobile industry.

“Italdesign is the flagship for creative Italian automobile design and has been instrumental in shaping the face of the automobile industry worldwide,” he said. “As the creator of the Golf I, Giorgetto Giugiaro laid a new foundation for Volkswagen design in the 1970s.”

Mr Winterkorn said Italdesign would make an important contribution to VW’s 2018 global growth strategy, under which it plans to become the world’s number one car company.

That strategy includes taking global sales leadership in “E-mobility” – electric and plug-in hybrid cars – by that year, selling three per cent of its annual volume with electric propulsion.

Mr Giugiaro, whose famous designs even extend to Nikon cameras, said that entering the Volkswagen Group opened up a promising perspective for the company.

In typical flamboyant style, the designed released a quote from the novel Sophie’s World by Norwegian novelist Jostein Gaardner: “Every drop becomes the sea when it flows oceanward.”

He added: “We are the drop. Becoming part of the Volkswagen Group means revaluating ourselves and our strength.”

Italdesign generates sales of more than €100 million ($A150m) and has a workforce of some 800 employees.

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