29 April 2024
29 April 2024, Comments Comments Off on Fabrizio Giugiaro – GFG Style
Fabrizio Giugiaro - GFG Style

Merging RV expertise with automotive design legacy

From cars to motorhomes: Fabrizio Giugiaro is the CEO of GFG Style, a design company that has recently stepped into the RV sector

Words Renato Antonini, photo Enrico Bona

The presence of famous designers from the automotive world is not common in the RV sector, but this is what happened recently with the collaboration between Laika and GFG Style. Laika needs no introduction for anyone familiar with the European motorhome market. The time-honoured Italian RV manufacturer started operations in 1964 and has been part of the Erwin Hymer Group for several years. GFG Style may be less well-known but the acronym hails back to one of the most celebrated names of Italian design. The three letters GFG stand for Giorgetto and Fabrizio Giugiaro. Giugiaro is a name that is an automotive legend. Giorgetto Giugiaro, born in 1938, designed some of the most iconic cars of the 20th century, such as the first series Volkswagen Golf (1974), the first Fiat Panda (1980, Compasso d’Oro Award in 1981), and several gorgeous sports cars and innovative concepts, including the Lotus Esprit (1976), the BMW M1 (1978) and the DeLorean DMC-12 (1981). Giugiaro founded his own company – Italdesign – in 1968 with Aldo Mantovani. All shares were sold to the Volkswagen Group in 2015. Giorgetto’s son Fabrizio Giugiaro grew up in his father’s school and together they designed and developed over 200 prototypes and more than 300 production models. Fabrizio Giugiaro started working for Giugiaro Architettura, specialising in architectural and urban planning, boat design, interior design and product design at all levels, in 2003. It was here that GFG Style offering stylistic consultancy services for automotive design was born. We met with Fabrizio Giugiaro at the company’s headquarters in Moncalieri, near Turin, which is also home to a museum showcasing some of the most important models created by the Giugiaro team over the years, to learn more about GFG Style.

Below left: Laika Kreos; Below right: Preliminary design for Laika Kreos

Aboutcamp BtoB – Tell us about GFG Style. How did the company start and develop?
Fabrizio Giugiaro – GFG Style is one of the three companies in the group owned by the Giugiaro family. The main company – which is also the oldest – is Giugiaro Architettura for architectural projects and product design in various fields. Giugiaro Architettura was not sold with Italdesign and remained in our hands. Two more companies operating in specific fields were then established under the control of the parent company: GFG Rail for the railway sector and GFG Style for the vehicle sector. The three companies have grown and today they can operate in an array of different sectors. Our group has two facilities near Turin and employs around fifty people.

Aboutcamp BtoB – In which areas are you active and at what levels?
Fabrizio Giugiaro – With Giugiaro Architettura we work on very different projects, from single-family villas to urban renewal projects. For instance, in 2011, we designed the exterior of the new Juventus Stadium in Turin, including the adjoining commercial area. In 2018, we won an invitation-only competition for the renovation of the Central Station in Milan. It was a huge project, 35,000 square metres of unused surface area to be rethought for new purposes, restored and completed with the insertion of modern elements capable of blending with the surrounding one-hundred-year-old architecture. We then specialised in the restoration and revitalisation of production spaces in ancient contexts, like the historical headquarters of Italgas in Turin. Giugiaro Architettura also works in product design. For instance, since 2015 we have been developing a series of traditional-looking watches with smartwatch functions (e.g., for digital payments) implemented in the strap (innovatively, they do not force the wearer to bend their wrist) for Wena (a Sony group brand).

Aboutcamp BtoB – What about the other two brands?
Fabrizio Giugiaro – GFG Rail specialises in the design of trains, trams and metros. We have 30 years of experience in this field. We have worked for railway carriage manufacturers, including Alstom, Hitachi and Bombardier, and end customers, i.e. the company that operates the trains on the networks. For example, we designed the interiors of the ETR 500 and ETR 700, two high-speed trains used by Trenitalia, Italy’s main railway company. GFG Style, on the other hand, works across the board in vehicle design on cars, but also industrial vehicles, agricultural machinery and now motorhomes as well.

Below: Fabrizio and Giorgetto Giugiaro with GFG Sibylla – 2018; Full range of Laffite Automobili Hypercars 

Aboutcamp BtoB – Can you give us some examples?
Fabrizio Giugiaro – Let’s start with a curious case. In 1974 my father designed the Hyundai’s Pony Coupé concept and recently the Korean company asked us to rebuild the prototype that had been lost. The new concept car was unveiled in May 2023 and from that experience, a new collaboration with Hyundai was born. Right now, we are working with Lafitte on one of the most comprehensive projects in recent years, ranging from logo development to the design of various road car models. We have also developed many truck concepts for Chinese companies and the most current project is the creation of a sports car for Bizzarrini.

Aboutcamp BtoB – Can you tell me more about the GFG Style approach?
Fabrizio Giugiaro – We have several designers and some model makers. We start with a hand sketch and then move on to more and more complex projects using state-of-the-art software programs. We can make full-scale models in various materials but the current trend in the auto industry is to make fewer and fewer models because they are expensive. Today, virtual reality can go a long way. Several years ago, foreseeing new developments, I had a 7×4-metre big screen installed in our premises capable of displaying cars in 3D format on a 1:1 scale. Today, companies ask us for several concepts, which is a step forward with respect to a scale model. One of our distinguishing features is that with us the manufacturer can skip several intermediate stages and receive an almost final design, which require just a few steps to be industrialised. We create production-ready concepts. This is an aspect that our customers have always appreciated. With have built on Giorgetto Giugiaro’s experience, retaining the idea of the direct relationship with reality, offering concepts that are engineering-ready and, in general, with great attention to costs. This way of operating, which originated in the automotive sector, has been carried over to the other activities of our group.

Aboutcamp BtoB – From cars to motorhomes: what is the common thread?
Fabrizio Giugiaro – Our group can work in all fields of design. Designing a motorhome is undoubtedly challenging because it combines our expertise in interior design and automotive styling. For someone with an automotive design background, it is not always easy to work on a motorhome because there are many more dimensional constraints than you might think. Unlike in the automotive field, the external dimensions are often fixed and cannot be varied at all.

Below left: GFG Style Kangaroo; Below right: Bizzarrini Giotto

Aboutcamp BtoB – How did the collaboration with Laika come about?
Fabrizio Giugiaro – We had already had some contacts with Erwin Hymer Group and with Laika we found the greatest understanding because they have always pushed the envelope of Italian brand identity and Italian style. Laika contacted us because they wanted to make a bold change to their products and so we set to work to create new designs together with them. The collaboration was kicked off in 2021 and led to the presentation of the new Kreos and Kosmo models. The new Ecovip will be presented soon. It is an important, time-honoured model for Laika and central to the manufacturer’s product range.

Aboutcamp BtoB – How did you work with Laika?
Fabrizio Giugiaro – It was a co-design operation with Laika. The company has always had its own in-house style centre and we chose to seek the best collaboration and not to compete with them. There was a continuous, daily exchange to achieve the final definition of the products. It was important to be able to change vehicles significantly within a specific time and cost framework. And we succeeded.

Aboutcamp BtoB – Can you tell us more about the Laika restyling?
Fabrizio Giugiaro – A great deal of work went into the interior, of course with differences between Kosmo and Kreos given that we are talking about products with very different price points. We researched materials and living spaces. As for the exterior, the models retained the original cab and focused on a light design, working on the graphics, the rear wall and the front mini-top. More decisive was our intervention on the motorhome models. We created a bold front end suggesting a family feeling that will be shared with the other Laika models in the future.

Below: Laika Kreos

Aboutcamp BtoB – The GFG Style project catalogue features sports cars, hypercars and dream cars. Did you run the risk of treating a motorhome like an object of little value?
Fabrizio Giugiaro – The motorhomes we designed together with Laika are not low-priced products. They are prestigious vehicles that cost as much as a premium car. In any case, I believe that a designer must be able to design everything and give every product the dignity it deserves. Besides, it is often the cheaper products that are the most inspiring. My father, Giorgetto Giugiaro, designed hundreds of cars in his career, many of them very expensive and flashy, real supercars. But the car that gave him the most satisfaction was the Fiat Panda, which appeared in 1980, a “popular” car that was a huge success.

Aboutcamp BtoB – Cars, motorhomes, trains, buildings. Does this mean that the legend of the designer who can design everything is still with us?
Fabrizio Giugiaro – Compared to the pioneers of design, the approach has certainly changed. Today we can design everything because we have a well-organised team, where specific professional skills coexist. Surely cross-contamination is a winner and working in one sector can provide useful ideas for designing in another. And a motorhome is an example of a blend of our various skills.