On arrival, you could be forgiven for thinking nothing in Italdesign has changed.
It is true that there are more cars parked on the street, but that just means that there are more employees, which is a given for a thriving company. But the two large studies of the buildings through which they usually enter Italdesign of the estate on the southern outskirts of Turin seems to have barely altered, despite the fact that it is almost 50 years since the company’s famous founder, Giorgetto Giugiaro, decided to launch his own design business.
Don’t be fooled. Almost everything in Italdesign is different. Apart, that is, from the sound of Italian voices and the signs that this is still a happy home for the Italian creative spirit. In the interior, the name of the largest, most extensive corridor in the place has not changed, either. We’ve always called it is Through Rome after the biggest street in Italy, the ancient capital.
There is no sign of a Lamborghini presence, although Lamborghini has Italdesign today. There is also no trace of Lambo father, Audi, beyond a couple of good future museum concepts – even though the majority of the Torinese firm of 400 engineers and 140 designers recently spent a couple of years under the radar of the creation of the new Audi Q2, including the construction of not less than 70 implementation of prototypes.
In 2010, Giugiaro was happy in the photo by an agreement for the sale of 90% of your company, including your name and patents – Audi put its new acquisition under Lamborghini of control. Five years later, the Germans completed the purchase, Giugiaro was and Italdesign talents were deployed in the group of projects that aims to bring to the mothership. It worked so well that the industry of experts began to call Italdesign as ‘Audi, design and technology arm’, which for many implied too close a relationship.
So now Italdesign is changing again. The arrival in late 2015 of an ambitious new CEO, Jörg Astalosch, finance man of great part of his 20-year career in the Volkswagen Group, Audi’s parent, has been aligned with that emergency (post-crisis) the need for Italdesign to win their own corn. Astalosch has established three priorities for the company: to return to the provision of design and engineering for outside clients; to establish an Italdesign academy to train promising young engineers and designers; and to establish a Italdesign brand of ultra-low-volume, top-price supercars. All of which is the reason why I recently visited Italdesign, a decade after I was last there.
Right now, the most obvious of insertion is in the recently released V10 supercar, the Zerouno, or ’01’ in numbers. Only five examples. As you read this, the first car is on display at the Geneva show, with the head of design Filippo Perini as its proud presenter, and your anonymous Belgian owner, without a doubt prominent on the audience. He will have parted with more than the nominal starting price of £1.3 million dollars for the privilege. Each Zerouno owner offers a variety of enhancements and options that could push prices as high as £2m.
Behind the scenes, Italdesign is also working hard on its other missions. The academy is already washed both the talent of the youth, since they can handle, and the company has become to be successful in the pursuit of external customers, especially for engineering projects.
“People know us as a design company because of the reputation of Mr. Giugiaro,” says Franco of the Bay, a Italdesign director helping to lead to its rebirth. “But pure design projects account for only about 15% of what we do. We do a lot of behindthe-scenes of the engineering, you can deliver the key to the car and can even handle low-volume production. We have made 200 for the year runs in recent years and has capacity for 500 cars.”
Perini is a fascinating character. A former client of Italdesign during his nine years at Lamborghini, and 13 years at Alfa Romeo, he was the main man in the Alfa 8C Competizione, but describes himself as “a strange kind of designer”, because he trained as an engineer in the first place.
When I arrive, there are two weeks to run up to Geneva. All of the centers of attention in the first Zerouno. Four cars are sold, but “maybe one” is still available for the squillionaire with slow reactions, says the Bay.
Cars like these seem surprisingly easy to sell these days. Of the bay and Perini confess to having a network of “20 or 30 friends,” they know that you will always be interested in cars. The conversations are already scheduled to discuss concepts for the next Italdesign ‘special’ and Astalosch has already told the world that there will be a new one every 18 to 24 months.
We walked along the Via Roma and turn to the right in a virtual reality theater, where the images of the new car could be projected in full size on a large screen. There is also a team for a driving game that Italdesign has been adapted to the characteristics of Zerouno so owners can drive before even seeing a prototype.
On this trip, I’ve been a little concerned about the car’s mighty price, given that there are a lot of Audi R8 V10 below it, despite the facts that the normally aspirated 5.2-litre Audi Sport V10 is one of the best super engines, which, as units that will not be for a long time (for clean air reasons) and that the MSS of the platform is also used by Lamborghini – that underpins everything is the best there is.
In a matter of minutes, it becomes clear why this type of projects to attract people who can pay for them, and move out of the sphere of the conventional value for the money. They are close to extreme rarity, extreme quality, small, design refinement done exactly your way and on a car that will perfectly suit your sizes and color/ trim preferences – all realized by some of the best in the business. Perini explains the car of the key advantages: undercuts the competitors by about 150 kg, so that a performance advantage can be delivered without any engine changes, despite the fact that it supports re-engineering of the already magnificent exhaust note just a bit.
The body, love it or hate it, is a masterpiece of detailed design in carbonfibre. Two great kits, front and rear, covers the majority of the cars structure and deliver significant savings of weight. The roof is lowered in a 50 mm, but for the approval of the essential reasons of the structure is not affected. Perini’s policy is to give the car an Italian sculpture character above the waist and below the belt line for a better aerodynamic performance, developed using a specially built, not for sale in mule.
Through a series of images of size, we examined the Zerouno details: the deep windscreen, the “stretched hexagon” front air scoop (which splits the air flow over the hood in a liftkilling And shape) and a small slot, barely visible to the naked eye, that cut the nose of elevation and smooths the flow of air over the roof. The opportunity to discuss such minutiae with the car’s creator – and you have to react to your comment – it is what the owner is paying.
In the rear, there is a giant diffuser and a beautifully sculpted and finished set to the rear of the louvre – in the exposed carbonfibre – which theoretically keep the car stable at maximum speed without the rear spoiler. But knowing that the majority of the owners prefer wings, Perini has designed one with a handsome racing character. The rear lights ‘float’ in an open extension, designed to allow the heat.
In fact, each ventilation has a very specific purpose. Perini is especially proud of a NACA duct is behind the ceiling that pulls cooling air in the engine compartment on the speed, but also reverses the flow when the car is stationary for the escape of hot air. The car enters the unique designed 21in alloy wheels with a clear carbonfibre rotor margin to extract high-pressure air from the wheel arches at speed. The tires are of the new design Pirellis distinguished by a red line in its side walls.
The Zerouno the detail and quality are the aroma of the best of old-style coachbuilders and very different from the cars sold in showrooms. I find the thing fascinating, but very soon it is time to go.
On my way out of the building, I wonder Perini why there is not more of an air of panic here. Not too long ago, this would have been the despair days, with people working all night and the car to reach the show standing with its paint still drying. “Now it is different,” he says. “The panic comes before then, when all the data of the surface of the delivery. When that is done, everything on the car is fixed. At this stage, everything is under control”.