Many of the Ferrari production cars you can find inside the various lists of the world’s most beautiful cars, but at the end the designs came mostly from external companies, in most of the cases from Pininfarina.
This famous long-term business relationship started in 1951 and had been sealed in a restaurant in the small city of Tortona, quite in the middle between Modena and Turin, in neutral space, so to speak, where Enzo Ferrari and Giovanni Battista Pininfarina met. Not un-typical for the former Italian business culture that such important business decisions had not been sealed in an office, but a restaurant. Maybe from a today’s view it would look a bit suspicious, but in many cultures food has a high importance and having dinner together is a sign of giving honor to the invitee. You want to learn a bit more from the other side, before you sign an important agreement. Also from a psychological side, it is a positive sign, as you are outside one of the participant’s offices; it is a meeting on neutral space and between two parties, who meet eye-to-eye.
The result of this meeting between the two men was, that Pininfarina as company became responsible for design, engineering, technology and construction. Later the relation became even closer, as Pinin became Ferrari vice president and a partner for the Ferrari racing team. But besides, both companies stayed independent, Ferrari never tried to acquire Pininfarina. This was conform to Enzo’s philosophy that competency would create the best results. Even as Pininfarina had the status of a preferred supplier, other companies had the opportunity to enter. But in fact it happened just one, 1973 as Bertone created the bodywork for the 308 GT4, a situation which created on the short run difficulties in-between the two men and companies, but already the order for the next chassis went again to Pininfarina.
Offering and acceptance of meals are a topic of most of companies’ Compliance programs. A difficult situation as an invitation includes two independent dimensions: a time-frame for business discussions and honoring the invitee. It is not recorded whom paid, Enzo Ferrari or Battista Pininfarina. Both men met geography half-space between their companies. Eye to eye on the same level; self-confident, but also honoring the other one. We can assume that both companies worked on the topic before, but nevertheless the last step required a personal meeting of both leaders. The restaurant’s location was convenient for both men and explained why the meeting was here instead on of the offices. Invitations to a meal are always an instrument to foster the customer loyalty or to start the relationship. Hereby the client gets honored in two ways, by the meal itself and by the pure presence of the employee. The honor translates into influence. Ideally the employee has a slightly higher social level than the client. If it would be lower, the client could feel offended, if it is much higher, the client could feel intimidated. If the importance of the personal contact is higher than importance of food & beverage, the influence is proportional. If, on the other hand, the subjective perceived importance of good & beverage is higher than the importance of the business partner’s presence, it could a non-proportional influence, or directly said a bribe. This is valid for normal business relations. It has to be seen different, if the employee is a celebrity. Such people have also outside the business discussions a level of attraction, so that the personal contact itself has a value, similar to a gift. A circumstance that charity organizations use for celebrity auctions, where people bid, for example on a dinner with a celebrity.
Enzo was clearly a celebrity and lots of Ferraristi would have loved to be at that restaurant table instead of Battista, but in general it had been two men, leader of the companies. We can assume that Pininfarina perceived Ferrari not as the celebrity, but the business partner; no risk of non-proportional influence.
In the described way trust gets established between two persons, for this it is imperative that the personal values have to be aligned with the company ones. In our case it had been a meeting between the two company founders, so it was given. But in most of the cases it is between managers or other company employees. It is a responsibility to represent the company in such meetings, for that special workshops about company, responsibility and negotiations are necessary.
- Henz, Patrick (2017): “Business Philosophy according to Enzo Ferrari – from motorsports to business”
- Mihalascu, Dan (2013): “Sergio Pininfarina Talks about his Collaboration with Enzo Ferrari in 2006 Interview”