1968-1978: creation and first projects for mass production
On 13 February 1968, Giorgetto Giugiaro and Aldo Mantovani set up SIRP – Studio Italiano Realizzazione Prototipi, and within a few months the company changed its name to Ital Design, to then become Italdesign in 1969. The first prototype was the Bizzarrini Manta, built in just three months to get to the 1969 Turin Motor Show in time. Two years later, the first major project for a production car arrived: Italdesign was responsible for the styling and engineering of the Alfa Romeo Alfasud, which sold more than 1 million units in 12 years.
International recognition arrived in 1974: Volkswagen needed a model to replace the Beetle, by that time thirty years’ old; with typical German pragmatism the Volkswagen managers appointed the Italian importer to recommend the best car designers. After the visit to the 1969 Turin Motor Show, Gerhard Richard Gumpert, assisted by a number of journalists, selected six projects from those presented, four of which had been designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Italdesign then became responsible for the Golf project which, between 1974 and 1983, sold more than 6 million units.
The first decade ended with a project that would remain a part of history and be the only production interlude: the BMW M1.
1978-1988: collaboration with FIAT, the creation of Giugiaro Design
The Eighties were marked by a fruitful collaboration with the FIAT Group: Panda, Uno, Delta, Prisma, Thema and Croma were some of the most widely sold cars during those years. For the Panda project, Italdesign studied and patented the 4WD, which was also adopted by Lancia’s Rally project in later years and contributed to the Delta’s successes in the world championship. The new decade also saw Italdesign’s activities expand into the field of industrial design, with the creation of the “Giugiaro Design” division.
During the Eighties there was steady expansion into emerging markets such as Korea and Japan. The twentieth anniversary was celebrated with the creation of the Aztec/Aspid/Asgard triptych: three different interpretations with mechanics and platform derived from the Audi 80. Their markedly futuristic lines made Roger Corman, the American movie director, want these prototypes for one of his science-fiction films set in 2030.
1988-1998: Italdesign becomes international
The final decade of the century saw Italdesign invest in two directions: technology and globalisation. Italdesign’s Barcelona subsidiary was established in 1992, in the light of the collaboration with Seat. This was then followed by the opening of two offices in Germany, namely in Ingolstadt and Wolfsburg, the opening of the Palo Alto Design Centre in California and the agency office in Shanghai. In 1999, Italdesign was one of the first private companies in Europe to have a Virtual Reality Center, which was futuristic for that era. In 2001, the Tiny and SUV prototypes were the first to be wholly designed and planned using virtual reality. Alongside its studies for supercars and luxury brands such as Bugatti and VW, Italdesign conducted the first research activities on sustainable and shared mobility. The 1992 Biga project was perhaps too far ahead of its time, but it already envisaged using mobility as a service: the Biga was not a car for sale to private individuals but one to be shared; compact and rational, it was perfect for congested traffic in the historic centres of European cities.
The prototype celebrating the company’s 30 years was the Structura, which was also the official car for Turin’s candidature as the City for the 2006 Winter Olympics.
1998-2008: Italdesign continues to collaborate throughout the world
This decade saw Italdesign working successfully in both the automotive and the industrial design fields and opened with a prestigious result: the 24-hour speed record achieved by the Volkswagen W12 on the Nardò circuit. The W12 project had been commissioned by Volkswagen to showcase the newly developed W12 engine. The following year was the year of the Brera, presented as a prototype in Geneva. Its success was such that the Alfa Romeo was ‘forced’ to convert it to a production car, which was then marketed three years later. The Brera won Italdesign over the fifth Golden Compass of its history. In 2003, Italdesign presented Kubang, the first SUV conceived for a sports brand, Maserati. At the same time, in the industrial design field, the successful collaboration continued with Nikon for cameras and a partnership started with the Japanese company Okamura for office design. Both partnerships are still in place today.
The car celebrating the fortieth anniversary was the Quaranta: a hybrid supercar with a unique design, which reinterpreted with a Noughties twist the first prototype manufactured by Italdesign, the Bizzarrini Manta, from which it drew the central driving position and the one-box sports design.
2008-2018: the move to the Volkswagen Group and the challenges for future mobility
In May 2010, the Volkswagen Group acquired 90.1% of Italdesign from the Giugiaro family, to then increase its interest in the company to 100% in July 2015. Together with Audi, Lamborghini and Ducati (acquired in 2012), Italdesign is forming the luxury hub within the Group. After a number of years in which Italdesign worked nearly exclusively with the Group’s brands, in late 2015 it went back to fully operating on the complete market.
2017 saw the creation of the Italdesign Automobili Speciali brand dedicated to the production of exclusive cars in ultra-limited production. The first of these, the Zerouno, was a carbon-fiber coupé approved for the road but with supercar performance. The five Zerouno models produced were sold in just a few months.
In the same year, Italdesign presented what can be considered a revolution for future mobility. Developed in collaboration with Airbus, Pop.Up envisaged sustainable and shared mobility for the large cities of 2030: a modular system managed by an app that combines a capsule, a terrestrial module and an aerial module thus moving mass mobility from roads to the city sky to reduce road congestion in the megalopolis of the future.