History



  • Industry Automotive
    Media
    Founded 1899, Turin, Italy
    Founder(s) Giovanni Agnelli
    Headquarters Turin, Italy
    Area served Worldwide
    Key people Sergio Marchionne (CEO)
    John Elkann (Chairman)
    Products Automobiles
    Commercial vehicles
    Auto parts
    Newspapers
    Production systems
    Production output 4.5 million units

FIAT Brand History

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA,Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) is the parent company of the Italian automotive group based in Turin. Fiat was founded in 1899 by a group of investors, including Giovanni Agnelli. During its more than century-long history, Fiat has also manufactured railway engines and carriages, military vehicles, farm tractors, and aircraft. In 2013, Fiat is the second largest European automaker by production, and the seventh in the world ahead of Honda, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Suzuki, Renault and Daimler AG.

Over the years, Fiat has acquired numerous other automakers: it acquired Lancia in 1968, became a shareholder of Ferrari in 1969, took control of Alfa Romeo from the Italian government in 1986, purchased Maserati in 1993, and became the 100% owner of Chrysler Group LLC in 2014. Fiat Group currently produces vehicles under twelve brands: Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat Automobiles, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Ram Trucks, and SRT. The company holds a 90% stake in Ferrari and a 67% stake in Fiat Automobili Srbija.

Giovanni Agnelli, with several investors, founded the Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (F.I.A.T.) società per azioni (S.p.a.), Italian Automobile Factory of Turin, in 1899. Its acronymous name was changed to upper- and lower-case Fiat in 1906. Agnelli led the company until his death in 1945, while Vittorio Valletta administered the firm’s daily activities. Its first car the 3 ½ CV (of which only 24 copies were built, all bodied by Alessio of Turin) strongly resembled contemporary Benz, and had a 697 cc (42.5 cu in) boxer twin engine. In 1903, Fiat produced its first truck. In 1908, the first Fiat was exported to the US. That same year, the first Fiat aircraft engine was produced. Also around the same time, Fiat taxis became popular in Europe.

By 1910, Fiat was the largest automotive company in Italy—a position it has retained since. That same year, a new plant was built in Poughkeepsie, NY, by the newly founded American F.I.A.T. Automobile Company. Owning a Fiat at that time was a sign of distinction. The cost of a Fiat in the US was initially $4,000 and rose up to $6,400 in 1918, compared to $ 825 for a Ford Model T in 1908, and $ 525 in 1918, respectively. During World War I, Fiat had to devote all of its factories to supplying the Allies with aircraft, engines, machine guns, trucks, and ambulances. Upon the entry of the US into the war in 1917, the factory was shut down as US regulations became too burdensome. After the war, Fiat introduced its first tractor, the 702. By the early 1920s, Fiat had a market share in Italy of 80%.

In 1921, workers seized Fiat’s plants and hoisted the red flag of communism over them. Agnelli responded by quitting the company. However, the Italian Socialist Party and its ally organization, the Italian General Confederation of Labour, in an effort to effect a compromise with the centrist parties ordered the occupation ended. In 1922, Fiat began to build the famous Lingotto car factory—then the largest in Europe—which opened in 1923. It was the first Fiat factory to use assembly lines; by 1925, Fiat controlled 87% of the Italian car market. In 1928, with the 509, Fiat included insurance in the purchase price.

Fiat made military machinery and vehicles during World War II for the Army and Regia Aeronautica and later for the Germans. Fiat made obsolete fighter aircraft like the biplane CR.42, which was one of the most common Italian aircraft, along with Savoia-Marchettis, as well as light tanks (obsolete compared to their German and Soviet counterparts) and armoured vehicles. The best Fiat aircraft was the G.55 fighter, which arrived too late and in too limited numbers. In 1945—the year Mussolini was overthrown—the National Liberation Committee removed the Agnelli family from leadership roles in Fiat because of its ties to Mussolini’s government. These were not returned until 1963, when Giovanni’s grandson, Gianni, took over as general manager until 1966, as chairman until 1996.