Stola is the latest Italian design and engineering house to try and break into the US market.
The Turin-based company has teamed up with former Ford Motor Co. designer Ken Grant and software expert Michael Check to open Stola's first North American design studio, which is located in Ferndale, Michigan, about 20km from downtown Detroit.
Stola hopes the contacts that these two executives have in Detroit's automotive industry will help the company's US division succeed where rivals such as Pininfarina and Italdesign Giugiaro failed.
In the 1980s, Italdesign Giugiaro, I.DE.A. Institute and Pininfarina opened subsidiaries in the Detroit area to supply design and engineering services to the Big 3 US automakers.
They were forced to close down the offices by the mid-1990s because they were not getting enough contract work to survive.
"We believe we can succeed because we have more conservative expectations," Check said. "We also have a good network of contacts in Detroit and that's important here."
Teresio Pirra, Stola's sales and marketing vice president, said the venture with Grant and Check is part of the company's global expansion strategy.
"The globalization of the market is the reality all companies will have to deal with from now on," he said.
Grant, 40, began his automotive career at General Motors, where he helped design the Pontiac Firebird. He worked as a designer for Ford from 1991 to 1998 on models such as the Jaguar XK8, Ford Mustang and the 2002 Ford Thunderbird. He has been an independent design consultant for the past seven years.
While working for the Canadian company Alias, Check, 44, helped to develop a three-dimensional design software package called StudioTools that is used by most automakers.
Stola owns 60 percent of the shares in the US operation. Grant and Check have the rest.
Stola North America will seek work from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler for new concepts, face-lifts or low-volume engineering.
The Italian company has engineering, modeling and prototype centers in Italy, Brazil, China and France as well as a stamping and body-in-white assembly facility for Fiat in Brazil.