Feature

Match made in heaven

M&M buys auto design house, Pininfarina, as design can make or break a car-maker’s fortunes

Photo: Pininfarina

“Choosing a car is like getting into an arranged marriage. You are attracted to physical appearances first.” VG Ramakrishnan, managing director, Frost & Sullivan, south Asia, draws an interesting analogy while explaining how important the outer design or appearance of passenger vehicles has become for Indian car buyers.

For decades, Indians had to discover beauty in what was available – Maruti Omni, Premier Padmini or Ambassador. Then there were the 800s and Esteems of the world, followed by the Santros and Altos. But the average Indian buyer’s aesthetic sense has evolved over the years. In fact, one could say that aesthetics have instead assumed a central role in buying decisions these days.

No wonder, then, that the SUV market leader of India, Mahindra & Mahindra has acquired iconic Italian auto design house Pininfarina. The design house is well known for designing more than 100 Ferraris in the past 60 years, also contributing to the stables of Maserati, Rolls-Royce, Alfa Romeo and Lancia, amongst others.

However, it has been ailing financially for more than a decade now, with debt becoming unbearable. Earlier this year, M&M bought a 51% stake in another Italian icon Peugeot for its two-wheelers, in order to upgrade its own offerings. Analysts feel that Mahindra has been under pressure to transform its product range for some time now.

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