The essentials

Date founded 1899
Derivation of name Fabbrica Italiano di Automobili Torino
Name meaning Italian car manufacturer of Turin
Where founded Turin
Name of founder(s) Giovanni Agnelli
First car name 4HP
First car date 1899
First car top speed/power 21mph / 3.5hp
Latest car name Grande Punto
Latest car date 2005
Latest car top speed/power 200 kmh | 96kW
Founder birth-death date 1866-1945
Founder background cavalry officer
Current ownership FIAT
Current base Turin
Current top person Luca De Meo; Sergio Marchionne (CEO-FIAT Auto)
3 of the best 850 Spider(1966);Punto HGT;Coupe 20V turbo


Brief History of Marque

F.I.A.T. was founded in Turin on July 12, 1899, at a time when the city was enjoying a period of vigorous industrial expansion. The first plant, inaugurated in 1900 at Corso Dante, had 35 employees and produced 24 automobiles. The Chairman was Ludovico Scarfiotti, with Emanuele Cacherano di Bricherasio serving as Vice Chairman and Giovanni Agnelli as Secretary to the Board. The other directors were Michele Ceriana, Alfonso Ferrero di Ventimiglia, Cesare Goria Gatti, Carlo Racca, Roberto Discaretti di Ruffia and Luigi Damevino.

Thanks to his determination and strategic vision, Giovanni Agnelli, a former cavalry officer, gained a prominent position among the original investors and was made Managing Director in 1902. One of his promotional ideas, a tour of Italy by automobile, was successfully carried out, with the finish line at the Milan Fair. The oval logo on a blue background designed by Carlo Biscaretti was adopted in 1904 and the first automobile to bear the Fiat brand was a Model 4 HP. The Company implemented a two-prong growth strategy - diversification of production and focus on the most promising markets - which has characterised its development through its entire one-hundred-year history.

In 1902, after listing its shares on the Stock Exchange, Fiat established a number of new companies serving specific functions: Societa Carrozzeria industriale, Fiat Brevetti and S.A. Garages Riuniti Fiat-Alberti-Storero. As a result, the Fiat factories produced not only passenger and racing automobiles, but also commercial vehicles, marine engines, trucks, trams, taxicabs and ball bearings. The Company's approach to the market was guided by a strategic and international vision. Fiat Automobile Co. was incorporated in 1908 in the United States. It manufactured Fiat cars under license at a plant built in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1909. Relationships established with other partners led to exports to France, Austria, Great Britain and Australia.

Ten years after its founding, Fiat had increased its capital stock to 12 million lire, had 2,500 employee and had manufactured 1,215 automobiles. The start of the First World War meant increased output of army trucks, airplanes, ambulances, machine guns and engines for submarines. However, the conversion to military production did not alter Agnelli's vision of a great future for Fiat based primarily on automobile manufacturing. After several trips to the United States by Agnelli, Bernardino Maraini and Guido Fornaca, the Company started to plan "a great new, American-style factory".

In 1916, construction of the Lingotto plant started at Via Nizza, in a mixed farming and protoindustrial district of Turin. Giacomo Matte Trucco was the project manager. The Lingotto factory, the largest in Europe, quickly became a symbol of Italian industry and one of Turin best-known icons. During those years, Fiat expanded its activities to the steel, railway and electrical industries, and entered the public transportation market with an exclusive contract to supply buses to SITA, a company based in Florence.

The end of the First World Ware ushered in a decade of complex and profound social changes. Fiat was not spared the turmoil and, in September 1920, its factories were taken over by the employees. In November 1920, Giovanni Agnelli was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors and Guido Fornaca was named Managing Director. During the following two years, the Company cut costs, downsized its workforce and lowered salaries. Growth resumed in 1923, when the new Lingotto plant went on stream. The launch of the Fiat 501 was followed by the introduction of the 505, 510 and 519 models. The four-seat 509 came in 1925.

Fiat's management understood that the Company's future growth was largely predicated on the development of mass production in Italy, since higher production would generate better living standards, improve social conditions and increase consumer spending. With this in mind, Fiat established SAVA, a consumer credit company created to promote instalment purchases of cars. The Company's advertising message, delivered through posters, newspapers and corporate publications, succeeded at targeting women as potential buyers of new cars.

Fiat's victories in automobile races, including the crossing of the Sahara and the raids in Latin America, significantly increased interest for this new mode of transportation. During those years, the Company founded the Fiat Employee Health Services, the Central School for Fiat Apprentices and several other employee organisations, including the Fiat Sports Group, the Alpine Children Resort and the Employee Association. Adjusting to changing social conditions, these entities have been and continue to be a constant reference point in the Company's life. The number of investments in Italian and foreign companies continued to increase. Management of this complex portfolio was entrusted to the newly created IFI (Istituto Finanziario Industriale). A plan to construct a factory that would build automobiles and trucks in Moscow under Fiat license had been on the drawing boards since 1913 and the plant went on stream in 1924.

Mussolini's decision to follow a policy of autarchy forced the Company to scale back its internationalisation plans and focus on the domestic market. The 30's were characterised by remarkable technological development for trusts and other commercial vehicles, some of which began to be equipped with diesel engines, and by growth for the Groups' activities in the fields of aviation and railway products. The world's first self-propelled electric and diesel trains manufactured using an assembly line system were produced for the Italian State Railways.

In 1928, Vittorio Valletta was appointed General Manager of Fiat. In 1935, Senator Giovanni Agnelli suffered the loss of his son Edoardo. In 1934, Fiat designed the 508, a new economy car known as the Balilla and referred to as "Minimum Rate", because of its low fuel consumption of eight litres for every 100 kilometres. The Company produced 113,000 of these cars. It also introduced a sports version (the 508 S) and a four-gear model (71.000 units). 1936 saw the launch of the Fiat 500 Topolino. This car, designed by Dant Giacosa was the world's smallest economy car. It remained in production until 1955 and a total of 510,000 units were manufactured. In 1937, Fiat reaffirmed its commitment to mass production by starting construction of the Mirafiori plant in Turin. This facility, which was inaugurated on May 15, 1939, enabled the Company to introduce in Italy the most sophisticated models of industrial organisation. It was designed to accommodate 22,000 workers in to shifts, a truly remarkable number considering that, at that time, Fiat had a total of about 50,000 employees.

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