Supercar Engineers Defect to Startups

The leader of Mercedes’ supercar initiative is the latest to join Automobili Pininfarina.

The Pininfarina Battista in London.
The Pininfarina Battista in London.
Automobili Pininfarina

The head of Mercedes-Benz’s supercar project departed to join a startup in a sign of a potentially troubling trend for conventional automakers.

Reuters reported that Rene-Christopher Wollmann will join Automobili Pininfarina, a German-Italian company owned by Indian carmaker Mahindra & Mahindra, due to the increased flexibility available to engineers at smaller automakers.

“Large companies take time to transform,” Wollmann told the publication. “And I am good at hypercars.”

Mercedes-AMG, the German automaker’s high-performance segment, is reportedly testing prototypes of its Project One hybrid supercar, but Reuters indicated that stricter emissions standards in Europe scuttled plans to begin selling the car this year.

The new emissions requirements, the report noted, also forced many automakers to focus on making their mass-market vehicles cleaner — often at the expense of its more ambitious projects.

That trend, along with the increased ability for even tiny startups to utilize software for complicated engineering and testing, prompted numerous engineers to depart industry giants.

Pininfarina — which introduced its Battista electric supercar late last year — previously hired away top officials from Porsche and Bugatti. And startups warn that those larger companies need to re-evaluate how they produce the next generation of vehicles.

“Eight years later and Tesla still has the better car than the Audi E-Tron or the Mercedes EQC,” Mate Rimac, the founder and CEO of the eponymous Croatian startup automaker, told Reuters. “It is not because the Germans are stupid. It is because they are not ‘all-in.'”

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