The Last Italian Design House

Control finally achieved, Lilli Bertone put in place a new management team headed by CEO Marco Filippa, the respected management consultant brought in to "clean up the mess." She installed American expatriate Michael Robinson as head of design and recently made Sandro Colella, former marketing and sales director, managing director. Then she set out to make an unforgettable statement of intent and capability with the Pandion, which has no more production potential than did the dramatic Scaglione BAT cars in the '50s, but like those classics, it demonstrates imagination and capabilities. That it was conceived in October and shown at Geneva early in March is indicative of Bertone tradition and Lilli Bertone's determination to bring the house back into worldwide significance.

Talking about her plans for the company last summer at Pebble Beach, the elegantly presented Signora Bertone was alternately gently humorous -- "I don't worry about the future. I plan to live to 150!" -- and ferociously severe -- "My daughters have nothing to do with the company. Nothing!" She talked about her devotion to what Nuccio had created and her determination to see the firm continue and prosper in an industrial climate that is far different from that of the '50s, when Nuccio guided the firm from a small workshop making bodies one at a time to a full-scale manufacturer of complete automobiles. One thing that has never changed, she says, is that Bertone has no debt.

Fiat now owns the former carrozzeria factory buildings, but Lille Bertone holds the creative parts that matter, the aspects of the business that will continue to appeal to mainstream manufacturers: design, engineering, and prototyping. Having the ability to offer turnkey projects for all -- or any discrete part -- of a new-car development program on time and on budget is invaluable to car companies. They may well have all those functions in-house, but there will always be times when they are overwhelmed, and a safe, certain, and reliable partner will save months and millions during those programs.

As design and brand director Michael Robinson says, success is often a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Clients that were left adrift when Italdesign-Giugiaro was swept up by Volkswagen were delighted to find that Bertone was back at full capability just as they needed its services. With clients all over the globe, Bertone now seems to be assured of not only achieving its centennial but also continuing far into the future.

I've always loved Bertone designs with the futuristic wedge shapes. Amazing to see the company in the hands of a woman who looks like a docent from the Liberace Museum.
Bertone is fantastic. One of the all time greatest names in automotive design. I hope they continue for another 100 years!

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