Turin (dpa) - The heart of the motoring world may beat in Detroit, Tokyo, Wolfsburg or Stuttgart but when it comes to design the Italian city of Turin is streets ahead.
There are more car designers here than anywhere else on the globe and above all, the independent design consultancies have elevated Turin to the peak of automobile fashion.
Among the 200 specialist firms for design, development and prototype construction are five companies whose work has earned them world renown.
Probably the best known of all is Pininfarina. Founded 70 years ago by Pinin Farina, the studio is responsible for the handsome lines of many Ferrari models. The firm celebrates its anniversary this year with a sports car design study from Maranello - the "Rosso" spider based on the F 550 platform.
French carmaker Peugeot has been working with Pininfarina for half a century. The shapes of the 205, the 306 cabriolet and the 406 coupe were all sketched on drawing boards in Turin.
Most of the company's turnover though is made by assembling 40,000 cars a year, models such as the Fiat Coupe, the Lancia Kappa Station Wagon and the European version of the Mitsubishi Pajero offroader. Of all the 2,600 employees, only 15 are on the designer payroll.
Number two in the Turin car design hierachy is Bertone. The most famous shapes to have emerged from this company of 1,200 staff are the Alfa Giuletta Sprint, Fiat 850 Spider and Lancia Stratos. Not forgetting the humble Audi 50 and its brother, the VW Polo, or the advanced Citroen XM. The 20-strong design team comes up with about a dozen prototypes every year.
The last Bertone project was dubbed Slim - a new interpretation of the Messerschmidt microcar with inline seats for two persons. Strictly speaking these are finger exercises. The firm earns most of its income from by turning out up-market German vehicles such as the C 1 scooter from BMW, the Opel Astra Coupe. The open air derivative will also roll off the production line here.
Giorgetto Guigaro has a particular fondness for German cars and his firm Italdesign has become prominent through its contract work for Volkswagen.
The father of the first VW Golf - at least in styling terms - employs 750 people to design and manufacture the bodywork for VW boss Piech's multi-cylindered range. First he came up with a coupe and a roadster for the W12 motor and then a Bugatti which is set to adorn an 18-cylinder power unit.
The Italians have also been happy to design bread-and-butter cars like the Renault 19, the Fiat models Panda, Uno and Punto or the Japanese Lexus 300. Add to that list the BMW M1, the Maserati Bora and Lotus Esprit and it adds up to more than 30 million cars that carry Guigiaro's design signature, says Italdesign.
That's a lot of cars for one city along with tens of thousands of cameras, millions of car tyres and a sheer inestimable number of noodles that were all shaped in factories here.
Guigiaro has jumped onto the offroad bandwagon this year with the striking Touareg presented at the Turin Show. The car is basically a space frame with rough and ready panels attached.
The youngest member of the Turin design elite is the IDEA Institute of Development in Automotive Engineering which employs some 300 people worldwide.
This stable developed not only models like the Fiat Tipo, Alfa 155 and Lancia Dedra but also the Missan Terrano II, the Daewoo Nubira and Mercedes V-Class. Also hailing from Turin is Ghia, a firm which reached prominence through its work with Ford.
Ghia was founded in 1915 by Giacanto Ghia and received acclaim in 1955 for its pretty VW Beetle coupe, the Karmann Ghia. The Maserati Ghibli and De Tomaso Pantera followed before the studio was sold to Ford. Since then the name has been synonymous with sumptuous Ford interior specifications from Dearborn and Cologne.
Ghia has not resorted to badge engineering entirely, however, and the firm recently showed its potential with the Steetka prototype, a possible roadster of the future.