MILAN — Garage Italia, the brainchild of entrepreneur Lapo Elkann specializing in vehicle customization, is entering a new phase of development.
The company has named a new chief executive officer, Sergio Esposito, and is setting up a complementary branch to its automotive customization division called Garage Italia Studio, a creative consultancy.
On his quiet arrival a couple of months ago, Esposito found a company undergoing transformation and he rode that wave. “We revolutionized everything, from existing projects to the business model,” and key appointments at the management level, he told WWD.
Over the past two years, the company has undergone a corporate reshuffle but, according to Esposito, this didn’t impact its positioning and key values.
As reported, in 2021 Garage Italia Customs was acquired by Youngtimers AG, a Switzerland-based holding company that operates in the collectible car market and is listed on the Swiss Stock Exchange, and Elkann reinvested in its new parent company, becoming its largest shareholder.
Earlier this year the Fiat scion, who established the company in 2015, resigned as chairman of Garage Italia Customs over disagreements with its majority shareholder Youngtimers Asset Company AG, a company controlled by Youngtimers AG, which owns 70 percent of Garage Italia Customs.
Esposito reiterated multiple times that despite Elkann not being involved in day-to-day operations, his halo and creative impulse reverberate across the freshly reorganized company.
“Garage Italia is Lapo’s brainchild, and he maintains his pivotal role, contributing with his creative élan” to several projects, said the executive. “My ambition is to bring back the company’s core values…the go-forward strategy has been outlined in tandem with Lapo and moves from our customization expertise,” he said.
“I truly wanted Sergio to join Garage Italia: thanks to his track record in the automotive and digital fields he will help strengthen the brand’s identity and give further impulse to the development of creative projects that will go beyond the motion segment,” Elkann said in a statement.
Esposito was previously director of brand development at VR46, the motorcycle racing team owned by Valentino Rossi, and held various positions at digital-first agencies.
Garage Italia Studio was conceived as a dedicated unit as part of the company’s ecosystem to develop creative strategies and content with a strong digital component, think multichannel communication, new media, NFTs, the metaverse and digital art, as well as experiences and events.
“Garage Italia has an enormous appeal, especially on the Italian market, and my goal is to consolidate it. That’s why my strategy stems from what made the company so strong: customization, Italianness and strong creativity,” Esposito contended.
“The company’s approach to car customization, our quality and disruptiveness can easily be translated and incorporated in different fields.…The launch of Garage Italia Studio could sound counterintuitive if compared to our ambition to cement our reputation, but in fact it’s not,” he explained.
The executive sees the divisions as two sides of the same coin and car customization as the physical byproduct of the same creativity Garage Italia Studio will channel in its intangible projects.
In continuity with the past, Esposito aspires to position Garage Italia Studio in the realm of exclusivity, though he said the company is not necessarily a luxury consultancy. “We are indeed an atypical agency and unusual creativity that maybe other consultancies don’t have the guts to embrace is what we can offer,” he explained.
The Garage Italia Customs project was unveiled in 2015 when Elkann acquired a historic former Agip station, located in Milan’s Piazzale Accursio and commissioned in 1952 by Enrico Mattei, the founder of the national Fuel Trust Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi. Two years later the restored and renovated building was unveiled and became the company’s headquarters.
“The Piazzale Accursio hub is definitely part of the company’s identity, but it does not represent the entirety of it,” said Esposito.
The executive said he wants to leverage the facilities Garage Italia owns nearby, currently being restyled, to become a creative hub for talent, collaborators and clients to gather.
The former Agip station, which at some point included a restaurant and bar helmed by Michelin-starred chef Carlo Cracco, will continue to be used as a showroom for car customization projects and as an event facility, including for an activation the company is planning for the upcoming Milan Design Week.
In light of the new division and retooled organization, Esposito expects revenues for the car customization business to post a compound annual growth of 20 percent, and 30 percent for the consultancy studio.