Pininfarina to lease own-design electric compact

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Italian car design firm Pininfarina SpA said it will start producing its own all-electric compact vehicle and start leasing it to consumers next year.

The 'Bluecar' is a joint venture with French firm Bollore, which developed the lithium polymer battery used to power the 4-seater.

"All the Pininfarina team is absolutely committed to making the best electric car in the world," said chairman Paolo Pininfarina, before signing the first pre-order contract for himself at the Geneva Auto Show.

Customers will be able to lease the Bluecar for (US $418) a month, with a minimum contract of three months.

The car has a range of 155 miles (250 kilometers) on a single charge and a top speed of 81 miles (130 kilometers) an hour.

Pininfarina says a full charge takes eight hours but a quick charge option for short distances is also available. Solar panels in the roof power electric devices inside the car but won't charge the battery.

The company plans to start rolling out the Bluecar in Europe in small numbers next year, ramping up production to 2,000 in 2011 and up to 10,000 a year by 2013 depending on orders.

Pininfarina, which has until now designed cars for Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, needs to open up new revenue streams to prop up the company. Italian newspapers have reported that the Pininfarina family is contemplating selling part of the business because of financial difficulty.

Paolo Pininfarina, who took over from his brother Andrea after his death in a scooter accident last year, declined to say whether an adviser has been appointed to explore a sale.

Bollore would be one possible investor. Its billionaire owner, industrialist Vincent Bollore, said his company would be comfortable investing in Pininfarina.

"If it's necessary we are ready," he told reporters. "We would love to invest more in Italy."



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