Fiat History: From Iconic Classics to Modern Italian Flair

Fall in Love with Fiat – Find Your Perfect Ride Today

1899-1900 – An oasis in the desert

Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) was born in Turin on July 11, 1899, when there was no automobile industry in Europe. Most of the 32 million Italians work in the fields; the car takes its first steps. The founding of this company represents a challenge for the ex-cavalry officer Giovanni Agnelli, the most determined of all the shareholders. He soon stands out on the Board of Directors thanks to his strategic vision and his determination.

1900-1910 – Growth and early models

Agnelli was elected CEO in 1902. His philosophy: diversification of production and attention to emerging markets. The first car is the 4 HP, which is soon followed by the 8, 10, and 12 HP in 1901, the 24 HP. Corsa in 1902, the 60 HP, the 100 HP, and the 130 HP, which in 1907 reached a top speed of 160 kilometers per hour.

In 1903 Fiat manufactured the first truck, and in 1908 the ‘1 Fiacre’ taxi is exported, of which 1,600 units are manufactured, which begins to serve the streets of Paris, London, and New York.

The original plant on Corso Dante, near the Po river, is growing in a few years. In 1906 it already occupied 50,000 square meters and employed 2,500 people.

1910-1920 – Automobiles for the great war

Seven new models appear in this decade: S70 Record (1911), S74 Corsa (1911), Zero (1912), 70 (1915), 2B (1918), 1T (1920) and 510S (1920). In 1912 a Fiat car won the Indianapolis 500 and the American Grand Prix, and in 1913 the factory increased to 130,000 square meters and 4,000 workers.

In 1914 he built the 18 BL truck assigned to the Italian army in World War I.

1920-1930 – The crisis hits hard.

There are times of crisis in which Fiat is forced to reduce personnel and costs. Even so, in 1921, the SuperFlat appeared, the only car with a V12 engine built by the brand, and a year later, the 519 was launched, in addition to the first electric motor for railways. But in 1923, the recession passed and Fiat (the first manufacturer to use aluminum cylinders as standard in its vehicles) opened the Lingotto plant; In the following years, he presented the 503 and the 520. In 1929 two more models were put on sale: the 514 and the 525 and an articulated bus for intercity routes.

1930-1940 – Manufacturing internationalization

This decade is characterized by establishing factories outside Italy in Spain, France, and Poland. Also, for the construction of fifteen new models, some became symbols of the brand, such as the Topolino, with attractive rounded lines.

In 1939 a new plant, Mirafiori, was inaugurated, introducing the most advanced principles of industrial organization and confirming the company’s objective: to focus on mass production. It currently covers an area of ​​more than three million square meters.

1940-1950 – Again, the war

World War II forced Fiat to reduce the manufacture of cars to build tanks, airplanes, and ships. However, it continued to produce locomotives, which broke the speed record in 1940 (160 km / h).

During 1944 the plants were almost destroyed by the bombings. In December 1945, Agnelli died, and Vittorio Valletta took over as president of the company. As of that year, automobile manufacturing was restored, and the workforce grew to 71,000 workers. Fiat has become one of the most critical players in the Italian economy.

1950-1960 – The first diesel car

Fiat reaches 85,000 workers. The most successful models are:

  • Brand’s first diesel car was 1400 diesel from 1953.
  • The 600 (1955), an automobile with an engine in the rear position.
  • The Bianchina, produced by Autobianchi (a company founded by Fiat and Pirelli and Bianchi), and the new 500, were awarded in 1959 for their original design and modern technical solutions.

1960-1970 – Spectacular growth

The 85,000 employees of the past decade double in this one. In 1966 Fiat entered Russia to manufacture the Vaz; that same year, Giovanni Agnelli, the founder’s grandson, became president of the company. It is a period of successful models, such as the 1800B, the 1500 Cabriolet, the 850, or the 124, elected Car of the Year in 1967. However, conflicts with the unions are also increasing: in 1969, 15 million strike hours were reached.

1970-1980 – Mechanization of factories

Models continue to appear, such as the 127 in 1971, and the factories continue to modernize. In 1972, the first 16 robots entered Mirafiori, in what would later be known as ‘Robogate,’ a system that assembles the bodies. The company is decentralized: Fiat Ferroviaria, Fiat Avio, Fiat Trattori, Fiat Engineering, Magneti Marelli were founded.

1980-1990 – The first electric cars

The decade is characterized by the acquisition of Alfa Romeo (1984), the development of electronic components and new materials, and increased attention to environmental protection. Not surprisingly, Fiat creates electric or methane-fueled vehicles. In 1980 the Panda, designed by Giorgio Giugiaro, was presented and, two years later, the Uno, which in 1985 incorporated the revolutionary Fire engine (Fully Integrated Robotized Engine). 1989 was the year of the Type and other successful models such as the Regata and the Croma.

1990-2000 – Renewing the range

The nineties are characterized by the entry into production of new models, which renew the entire range—vehicles such as the Cinquecento in 1991, the Punto, or the Fiat Coupé in 1993. A year later, Fiat launched the Ulysse, the first large minivan in collaboration with the French group PSA, with great success. Other vehicles found in this decade are the Fiat Barchetta (a tiny spider designed by Andreas Zapatinas), the Fiat Bravo and Brava (direct successors to the Fiat Tipo), or the Fiat Marea (derived from the Fiat Brava and heir to the success of the Fiat Tempra ).

2000-2010 – The acquisition of Chrysler

The year 2008 is marked by the deep economic crisis, originating in the United States and, since then, spreading throughout the world. One of the industries most affected by this phenomenon is the automobile industry. In 2009, the Fiat group signed a preliminary agreement with the Chrysler group.

Months later, the two automakers announced that they had closed a global strategic alliance: with this agreement, the Italian group acquires 20% of the US group, possibly reaching 35% if they meet specific established targets.

Thanks to this agreement, the Fiat Group can use Chrysler platforms for its most emblematic models (for example, the Chrysler 300C), while the American company expands its product range. In this way, both manufacturers exploit their commercial networks to boost their presence.

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