More than just a rebodied Rimac, the legendary design house has revealed a unique entrant into the EV race that promises to be the first of many to come.
While Pininfarina is one of the most famous names in car design, having penned hundreds of models for carmakers big and small, including most of Ferrari's back catalogue, it has never produced a car carrying its own name. Until now.
The Battista, making its debut at the Geneva motor show, is an all-wheel driven electric hypercar named after the company's founder, Battista "Pinin" Farina. It will be going on sale at the end of 2020, with a succession of other Pininfarina Automobili models to follow.
Performance is certainly set to be spectacular. The Battista shares its electrical powertrain with the Croatian-built Rimac C_Two, meaning individual wheel motors, a total power output of 1415kW and the promise of a sub-2 second 0-100km/h time, 0-300km/h in under 12 seconds and a top speed of at least 350km/h.
As such, Pininfarina says it will be the most powerful road-legal car to ever come out of Italy.
Design riffs on some of Pininfarina's greatest hits; there's something definitely Ferrari-esque about the front end treatment and the car's overall form. The Battista is built around a carbon-fibre structure and will be able to pass crash test standards in both Europe and the US, although the brand says it won't be pursuing Chinese homologation.
The original concept, as shown to potential prospects and a small number of journalists as a rendering last year, featured pop-up headlamp covers, but unfortunately these haven't made production.
"That was kind of a dream, to bring those back to the market," says Luca Borgogno, Pininfarina Automobili's design director, "but sadly it was too difficult to do them."
The need for a huge top speed has seen significant work on aerodynamics, with air channelled over the shovel-nose form at the front beneath a slat that runs between the headlights and a vast active rear wing at the back featuring twin elements. But it still looks mid-engined, despite not having an internal combustion donk behind the two-seater cockpit.
"We wanted the car to be perceived as a hypercar, and the normal proportion for that is with the cabin pushed forward and the rear flank very strong," Borgogno says, "but technically it is the right solution as well – for weight distribution we wanted to put most of the car within the wheelbase, and the batteries are more or less where the IC engine sits in a normal car."
We don't have a capacity for the battery pack yet, but Pininfarina says it is chasing a range of up to 450km under the EUDC testing methodology, although presumably not when running at close to its top speed.
Although sharing much with the Rimac, the Italian company is keen to point out that there will be substantial differences between them. CEO Michael Perschke says that the two cars will be less closely related than the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Huracan: "We will probably share 40 to 50 percent of the pure technical components," he told CarAdvice when we met him prior to the show.
"There's a raw skeleton of the drivetrain and motor system. But these have been tuned, the acceleration amplitude, the drive mode characteristics. These come from us, and are very different."
Pininfarina has certainly recruited some heavyweight engineering talent to work on both the Battista and the range of models it plans to launch beyond it. Christian Jung, the CTO, formerly worked on what is now the Porsche Taycan, Peter Tuzler worked on both Pagani and Bugatti models and new recruit Rene Wollmann has just been poached from Mercedes, where he led the Project One team.
Porsche recently took a 10 per-cent stake in Rimac, which is also working with other manufacturers, including on the electrical side of the Aston Martin Valkyrie's powertrain. But Perschke insists that won't get in the way of what he hopes will be a long-term partnership with the Croatian company, a relationship he describes as being that of "frenemies".
"We are Mate [Rimac]'s biggest single customer," he said, "I would say that from an operational day-to-day point of view were are more relevant to him than Porsche is."
The big question is who Pininfarina will work with to develop its next models, all of which will be EVs, with Perschke saying the brand plans to launch three more models at one-year intervals, and hopes to be selling between 8000 and 10,000 cars a year globally within five years.
We expect two of those to be crossovers and one to be a more accessible supercar. Pininfarina has been linked with Rivian, but Perschke insists the company is flexible on collaboration partners.
"We want to be a low capital expenditure business," he said. "Our business model is not running factories, our business model is finding the right partners with whom we can co-run the production process."
Pininfarina is owned by Mahindra & Mahindra, but although the Indian maker has invested substantial funds in setting up the Automobili division, Perschke describes it as being "seed funding", with an expectation that he will make his side of the business financially self-sufficient within a few years.
Begging the obvious question...
How many of the 150 Battistas the company plans to produce have actually been sold for the pricetag of between $2m and $2.5m US?
"We have a good 30-plus down payments in the bank," Perschke told CarAdvice. "In the US, we have more than 65 per cent of the cars we intend to deliver already allocated and reserved by clients."
The plan is to start European deliveries in 2020, with the US and the rest of the world following in 2021. The company reckons production will be split approximately equally between the three distinct markets.