Pininfarina, Italian Car Designer, Dies in Turin Accident Today

Andrea Pininfarina, chief executive officer of Pininfarina SpA, a designer of sports cars including Ferrari Testarossas and Fiat SpA’s Alfa Spider, died in an accident today. He was 51.

Pininfarina’s motorcycle collided with a car about 8:15 a.m. in Trofarello near the northern city of Turin, Italy, police officials said. The chairman and CEO died in an accident today, a company spokeswoman said, declining to give more details.

The car designer, founded in 1930 by Andrea’s grandfather Battista Pinin Farina, has designed cars for Fiat unit Ferrari SpA for more than 50 years. It’s currently producing five models, including Ford Motor Co.’s Focus Coupe Cabriolet and Fiat’s Alfa Brera. The company, based in Turin, has posted losses in the past four years as production costs exceeded orders from clients.

Pininfarina, 55 percent owned by the Pininfarina family, in December announced an electric-car joint venture with France’s Groupe Bollore and is seeking to boost its engineering business in a bid to return to profit.

Pininfarina is also planning to sell 100 million euros ($155 million) of new shares to existing investors, French billionaire Vincent Bollore and India’s Tata Motors Ltd. The Italian car designer’s 2007 loss widened to 114.9 million euros in 2007 from 21.9 million euros a year earlier.

The shares rose as much as 9.8 percent to 6.60 euros in Milan trading today before being suspended for excessive gains. Investors are speculating on a possible sale of the company, fund managers including Luca Sega at Aperta Sgr in Milan said.

Pininfarina was appointed CEO in 2001 and was a member of the board of Italy’s biggest employers lobby, Confindustria.

He’s survived by his wife Cristina Pellion di Persano and three children. He also was a board member at Finmeccanica SpA’s Alenia Aeoronautica SpA unit and furniture-maker Poltrona Frau SpA.