Last Updated on March 30, 2021 by Gaia Zol
Fiat has always been synonym of innovation, prestige, and tradition. Indeed, this Italian auto manufacturer is both contemporary and old. How? Let’s find out by deep-diving into the history of FIAT.
The first 40 years
The Società Anonima Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (aka FIAT), was born on July 11, 1899. Giovanni Agnelli was on the Board of Directors, but quickly distinguished himself as the Company’s innovator.So, he became Managing Director of Fiat in 1902.
In 1900, the first Fiat factory opened in corso Dante, in Turin, with a workforce of 150 people. It manufactured 24 cars during the first year, including the 3 ½ CV. When Italy hosted the first Car Tour of the country, nine Fiats crossed the finish line. That’s when the company had entered the world of racing.
In 1908, Fiat opened the Fiat Automobile Company in the US. At that time, a Fiat was a luxury item. Towards the end of Fiat’s early production period, the company underwent a few changes. The manufacturer began fitting its cars with electrical accumulators. Also, it patented the cardan transmission.
1912 to 1925
Under the new leadership of Giacomo Malle Trucco, construction of the Lingotto factory began. The works started in 1916 and they ended six years later. Immediately, the plant became the symbol of the automotive industry in Italy. At its time, it was also the largest factory in Europe, with an assembly line of five floors. During WWI, the company started supplying the Allied Forces with weapons, aircraft, and military vehicles.
After WWI, the company entered new sectors, like electricity, public transportation lines, and railway. By 1923, the Italian manufacturer was growing and developing. That’s when Giovanni Agnelli became its CEO. Several new car models were released, including the four-seat 509.
The company wanted to create industrial mass production in order to decrease the cost of their cars. As the company grew worldwide, Fiat also grew internally. They were quick to recognize their employees’ needs and established a health care plan, sports clubs, and specialized schools.
When Mussolini’s took the power, the history o Fiat changed. Fiat had to abandon many of its plans, especially the international expansion. In fact, the Italian dictator asked the manufacturer to focus on the local market. That’s when the company launched its first 500, aka the Topolino. Plus, the Mirafiori plant opened.
History of Fiat, through the 90s
When WWII started, the production of cars nearly ceased. Instead, the production of military vehicles, aircraft, and weapons increased. During WWII, many of Fiat’s factories were destroyed. But reconstruction quickly began.
Two new cars, the 500 and 1400 were introduced for mass production, while the company continued its research on aircraft and marine engines. Italy was in the middle of an economic boom. And its automobile sector was the driving force. Hence, new models joined the market.
Fiat continued to experience growth, in both exports and domestic sales. However, this was also the beginning of the infamous trade union conflicts.The grandson of founder Giovanni Agnelli, Gianni Agnelli, became President of Fiat in 1966. His first model was the 850.
To keep Fiat on the path to automation, Robogate was introduced to factories. This was a flexible robotic system for assembling bodywork. Fiat began to acquire other well-known Italian brands such as Lancia, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati.
Fiat from 1991 to 2003
New models entered the production line. Especially worth mentioning is the supermini Punto. Since it was named Car of the Year in 1995.
Years of changes
1996 saw changes at the top of Fiat as Cesare Romiti took over as CEO. During the 1990s, the company faced a crisis. Indeed, competition was becoming real. In 1998, Fiat released the Seicento as a replacement for the 500. The car became known as a great compact car, perfect for city driving. The innovative design of the Multipla was once featured in a modern art exhibit at New York City’s MOMA.
A New Century
In 2000, Fiat Doblò was introduced at the Paris Motor Show. It was named 2006 International Van of the Year. Gianni Agnelli died in 2003. One year later, the new Panda became the 2004 Car of the Year.
An ongoing story
Fiat continues on the path of innovation and technology. In spite of the 2008 crisis, the company introduced new models: the Alfa 159, the Fiat Nuova 500 and La Grande Punto. Between 2010 and 2014, the company restructered its sectors’ organization through the creation of Fiat Industrial.
It seems like the success of the Italian manufacturer is bound to last. As the entry to the US market shows.