Car designer and contract assembler Pininfarina faces an uncertain future after the sudden death of chairman and CEO Andrea Pininfarina in a motorcycle accident in Italy yesterday (7 August).

The family-owned company is going through a turnaround plan it began at the end of 2006 and demand for its specialist production services is falling, as car makers reduce the amount of work they outsource and try to prevent lay-offs in their own factories, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted on Friday.

The company, which builds niche convertible models such as the Alfa Romeo Spider, and the Ford Focus and the Volvo C70 coupe-cabriolets is poised to ask shareholders for a capital increase after having signed a "standstill agreement" with its creditor banks leading to a debt rescheduling, the WSJ said.

It plans a capital increase of as much as EUR100m and recently agreed a 50-50 joint EUR 150m venture with Bolloré Group to develop a fully electric car - Pininfarina is to design and build the four-seat vehicle while Bolloré will supply the battery technology, the paper added.

Bolore Group Vincent Bolloré said he was "absolutely confident in the capacity of the business to overcome this terrible shock", according to the paper.

The Wall Street Journal also noted that Pininfarina rival Carrozzeria Bertone is also undergoing heavy restructuring after losing assembly contracts. It has previously built models such as Fiat's Punto and the Opel/Vauxhall Astra convertible.