No matter how much you pride yourself on being a car buff, it’s entirely possible you haven’t heard of Filippo Perini.
And if you haven’t, he wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
“I am not used to staying in the spotlight,” Perini told Wheels.ca at the Montreal International Auto Show, which he attended in his new role as head designer for Korean luxury brand Genesis.
“I’m probably the least-known head of design ever. There are people who are just spending 80 percent of their time improving their image. I was lucky to have always a lot to do and not be able to take care of my image. I was just doing project (after) project.”
You’ve certainly heard of the cars in Perini’s career highlight reel, though: the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and the Lamborghini Aventador and Urus all were influenced by his hand in varying degrees. He has also worked for Audi and at Italian independent design house Italdesign.
For Perini, a career designing cars was a birthright: he was born in the Italian city of Piacenza and raised in the nearby town of Bobbio. Both are located at the far northwest reaches of the area known as Motor Valley, which cuts through a swath of land in the region of Emilia-Romagna. Not only did he live in the cradle of legendary Italian automotive design for much of his young life, he witnessed his country’s changing design philosophies as they evolved before his eyes.
Decades later, Perini’s not working for a European car brand: he’s now leading design for Genesis, lured by the promise of the brand’s desire to integrate tradition and outside-the-box innovation all at once.
“Being that the brand is so young, we are asked not just to see but to create,” Perini said. “The beauty of an elegant car comes not just because of details. It comes because of proportion. When you have a proportionate car, normally this is a beautiful car.
“There are some rules that you can follow to create an elegant car. We have to master these rules and also to be able to break them and to create something that is elegant but not following the rules of elegance.
“For me, Genesis will be something like this. We’ll be able to break the rules, always thinking forward, because we have to convince people that we are really like this. And design will have an important role in this, to create the history of the brand.”
Perini joined Genesis in September 2019 and arrived already armed with a keen sense of how the brand’s evolving design language writes each chapter of that history as it unfolds.
“This is exactly what I’m asking to my (designers), not just to do sketches and to do lines and invent beautiful cars but to invent stories,” he said. “We have to invent something to tell the customers.
“When we will have all cars electric, and we have all cars made so homologated by cost, what will remain to us? We have to be emotional. To be brandable to produce luxury cars means that we have to be different. You have to tell different stories.”
Genesis is currently showing its Mint concept in Canada for the first time at the Montreal auto show, which is on through January 26. Mint is a concept for a two-seat, battery-electric city car, a snapshot of the brand from a moment just before Perini’s influence is set to pivot its direction.
That said, while Mint was completed before Perini joined Genesis, he sees plenty to take from it.
“I was looking at the car for the first time in reality (in Montreal), and I have to say that it is absolutely beautiful,” he said. “The car looks much better than in pictures, and it’s telling you something that’s important.
“The description is athletic elegance. Mint is not elegant because of just the proportion. It’s elegant because of the surface treatment. It’s sculpted enough but not vulgar. It’s absolutely clean in terms of design language. And it’s driven around an electric platform that has a long wheelbase, short overhangs. It has a kind of width. So, it’s more related to a sports car than a city car.”
Perini says that there are features on Mint that speak to the Genesis willingness to innovate, such as side panels that lift to allow for curbside cargo hold access.
“This is very interesting,” he said. “When you are parked in the city and you have the possibility to access the luggage compartment from the side, that means you are not on the road. That’s much more safe and much more practical. These are the kind of things that are important for me.
“This is design. It’s not just that we do a beautiful style. This is something that can be implemented in a production car to make our lives better. That’s the real reason to do a concept car, to invent something that can be used like that. Mint, for me, is breaking these rules.”
The clean-slate approach in the Mint’s interior, granted by the battery-electric platform, is taken in an entirely different direction than many of today’s futuristic concepts. It solves a problem that, as Perini outlined, many of us may not even realize that we have.
“Inside, you see – this is not by chance, it’s made on purpose – there is not this flourishing of monitors,” he said. “I was reading in the news (about a) brand I don’t want to mention that is proudly doing a car with 26 monitors. Thanks a lot. I have (amusement parks) if I want to go.
“Is this modern? No. This is just heavy in terms of cost, heavy in terms of weight, and is just killing the possibility to have a journey with your family, talking with your son.
“I will never forget the journey to come from Bobbio to Piacenza, 45 kilometers with my Lancia, my father on the steering wheel, and we were talking about cars or about something else. We (must not) forget that in a car it’s also beautiful to do a journey just looking outside the car.
“We are analog, for (thousands) of years. Mint is a little bit less digital, and for this I like it.”
The Genesis Mint concept is on display at the Montreal International Auto Show through Sunday, January 26. Find more information at salonautomontreal.com.