Fiat Page 2
Brief History of Marque
Outside Italy, customer assistance centres, workshops and special industrial projects were created in Spain, Egypt, Poland and France. The Second World Ware caused a drastic drop in the production of automobiles, but the output of commercial vehicles increased fivefold. Carpet-bombing raids seriously damaged the Fiat factories, but failed to halt production. During the war and its aftermath, employee services provided directly by Fiat supplemented the limited assistance offered by the Public Administration. The Company's Assistance Office provided linen, shoes and firewood to working people, while Fiat soup kitchens distributed on hundred thousand meals a day. Senator Giovanni Agnelli died in 1945 and in March 1946 Vittorio Valletta became Chairman of Fiat.
Matching U.S. technology and developing an Italian way to mass motor transport was the task at hand for Fiat. By 1948, thanks to financial provided by the Marshall Plan, the factories had been rebuilt. The payroll increased from 55,674 to 66,365 employees. Earnings, which had remained flat during the war, had disappeared after 1943. In 1946, the Company reported a loss. However, the upward trend resumed in 1948. As manufacturing output recovered after the war, the Company introduced the Fiat 500 B, available as a sedan or as a station wagon, the 1100E and 1500E models and the Fiat 1400, a car with unitised body construction characterised by innovative styling and engineering. The 500C was offered for the first time with a heating and ventilation system installed as standard equipment. The first cars equipped with a diesel engine came off the assembly line in 1953.
In the meantime, research continued on marine and aircraft engines. The G 80, Italy's first jet aircraft, was produced in 1951 and the Company broke new ground with the prototype of a turbine-powered car wand with its work in the field of nuclear technology. In 1956, the Fiat G 91 was chosen for production as a NATO tactical fighter.
The Fiat 600, a new economy car, was introduced in 1955. Over four million units of this model were manufactured. The colourful parade of 600s that ran through the streets of Turin to publicise the model launch provided a fitting symbol for the start of mass motor transportation in Italy. The New 500 was introduced two years later. It enjoyed a production run of 3,678,000 units. During the 50's, the Company's workforce increased from 70,000 to 80,000 employees and production rose from 70,800 cars in 1949 to 339,300 in 1958. Between 1956 and 1958, the Mirafiori plant doubled in size and by the end of the 60's it employed over 50,000 people. At the same time, expanded its production of farm tractors and construction equipment.
Outside Italy, new factories were built in South Africa, Turkey, Yugoslavia, Argentina and Mexico. Fiat's engineering and construction activities, which were headed by Impresit, expanded rapidly in the international markets, completing such landmark projects as Kariba hydroelectric power plant on the Zambesi, the Dex Dam, in Iran, and the Roiseires Dam on the Blue Nile, in Sudan. They also helped save the Abu Simbel temples in Egypt and built the Grand San Bernard highway tunnel. This was the time of Italy's "economic miracle". From 1958 to 1963, the country's gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 6.3% and the automobile industry was the main force driving the expansion.
During the decade between 1959 and 1968, Fiat's output rose from 425,000 to 1,751,400 cars, while car density improved from 96 to 28 inhabitants for every car. Exports also boomed, jumping from 207,049 to 521,534 units. Gains were recorded in the production of commercial vehicles and tractors, which increased from 18.968 to 68.200 and from 22,637 to 52,735 respectively. The Group's workforce doubled from 85,117 to 158,445, with the number of factory workers rising at a faster rate than the office staff.
The Fiat 850, a new and highly successful economy car, was introduced in 1964. Other, more powerful models followed: the 124 and the 125, which in 1968 were emblazoned with the diamond-shaped Fiat logo still in use today. In 1966, Giovanni Agnelli, the founder's grandson, became Chairman of the Company's Board of Directors. In 1969, Fiat decided to expand its presence in this Southern Italy, where it already owned factories in Reggio Calabra, Bar and Naples. It therefore launched the construction of car-making plants at Termini Imerese, Cassino and Termoli, and facilities for special productions at Sulmona, Lecce, Brindisi and Vasto. The economic expansion was followed by a long period of social adjustments. During 1969, the confrontation between corporations and their employees reached a high point, with a total of 15 million hours lost to strikes. This period of confrontation had a significant negative impact on corporate profitability.
In 1971, Fiat launched the 127, its first front-wheel drive model, which featured innovative technology. It was extremely well received by the market and by the end of 1974 one million 127s had rolled off the assembly line. The Company responded to the oil crisis by taking advantage of technological innovations to accelerate the introduction of automation at its manufacturing facilities. By 1972, the first 16 robots were already in operation at Mirafiori on the Model 132 assembly line. Other robots went into service at the Cassino plant in 1974. In 1978, Robogate, a new robotised, flexible bodywork assembly system was installed at the Rivalta and Cassino factories. It had been developed by Comau, which would become the world leader in its industry.
In 1978, Lancia S.p.A. was merged with and absorbed by Fiat S.p.A. However, the Lancia brand continued to be used for marketing purposes. In 1979, the Automobile Sector was transformed into a separate company that combined the Fiat, Lancia, Autobianchi, Abarth and Ferrari brands, with Giovanni Agnelli as its Chairman. The Group had already acquired the prestigious Ferrari brand in 1969, when it purchased a 50% interest in that company, later raised to 87%. At the end of the 70's, the Fiat Group strengthened its organisation adopting a holding company model. The various manufacturing units, which during the long period when Valletta was at the helm had been structured as divisions. Became independent companies organised into operating Sectors. In addition to Fiat's traditional activities in automobiles, rolling stock, aviation, tractors and commercial vehicles, companies like Fiat Engineering, Comau, Teksid, Magneti Marelli and Telettra were also set up as independent entities. In 1980, Cesare Romiti, who had joined Fiat as Chief Financial Officer in 1974, was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Fiat Group.
Get our in-depth reports on individual models
The official Fiat website
Facts & Figures and Brief History of Marque.
How many Fiats in Australia?
Technical and other information on past, present and future models
Information on Fiat in Australia
The largest annual gathering of Italian cars in Australia featuring old classics next to modern supercars - read our report on Auto Italia 2006.
Read about our recent test drive of the drop dead gorgeous Maserati Spyder Cambiocorsa.
• Win one of two Top Gear DVDs we're giving away • Read breaking news first in the Club • Access our directory of over 400 Italian car specialists • Read exclusive interviews and articles • Get one of our limited edition fridge magnets - free
The Ferrari 308 is a true classic: if you grew up watching Magnum PI then you'll certainly recognise the 308!