Rental outlets will be opened in six European countries, including France and Italy, with the Bluecar set to cost around 330 euros per month for a minimum of three months.

Pininfarina and Bolloré have a co-branded stand in Geneva dedicated to the forthcoming electric car and the French group's chairman Vincent Bolloré, told the press at the show that he would be willing to take a stake in Pininfarina if it helped the project.

"We have a partnership with them already in a fifty-fifty subsidiary and if tomorrow they need an industrial partner, we will be there, because it is a company we admire very much," said Bollore. His company is developing and will manufacture the Lithium-Polymer batteries that will power the four-door, four-seat electric car.

Plans to sell the electric car, which is to be called Bluecar, have been shelved in favour of a scheme to rent out the cars Bolloré and Pininfarina Group Chairman Paolo Pininfarina told the media during a press conference in Geneva yesterday. Rental outlets would be opened in six European countries, including France and Italy, with the Bluecar set to cost around 330 euros per month for a minimum of three months. Renting the electric cars instead of selling has been chosen - said Paolo Pininfarina - as they didn't want to force consumers to face the prospect of buying entirely new technology during what is a financially strained period.

As well as the co-branded stand in Geneva with Bolloré, Pininfarina has its own stand on which it is showcasing some of the niche models it designs and builds on behalf of other car manufacturers, including the Alfa Romeo Spider. The Italian firm has been struggling financially over the last year after overextending itself with major car contract manufacturing projects for clients including Alfa Romeo, Ford and Volvo, and this year it has eschewed its annual tradition of rolling out an eye-catching new concept car in Geneva.

Even before the current global economic downturn the niche models that Pininfarina was assembling were not selling in viable quantities, and after being forced by its clients to fund the development of the projects through the initial stages, the famous Turinese firm was deep in trouble.

The unexpected death of its hands-on CEO Andrea Pininfarina last year dealt the company a body blow, and very late last year, on December 31, the Pininfarina family was finally forced by the circling creditor banks to agree to sell their controlling 50.6 percent share in exchange for writing off around 180 million euros of debt. At the show Pininfarina said they hadn't as yet appointed advisors to handle the sale. With the share price having collapsed by 80 percent, the firm, which also designs cars for Ferrari and Maserati, now has a market capitalisation of around 24 million euros, a tiny fraction of its outstanding debts.


© 2009 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed