FIAT Through The Years

11 Aug 2013

Fiat is one of the oldest of all the auto manufacturers in the world. It is also recognized as the fourth largest carmaker in Europe and the eleventh largest in the world. It was started by a group of investors in 1899 in Turin, Italy. On its way to becoming such a large company, Fiat also manufactured tractors, military vehicles, aircraft and engines for trains. Fiat has factories around the globe and it owns other companies outright or is a major shareholder in them.  Some of these companies are Lancia, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Chrysler.

Fiat, founded by Giovanni Agnelli and other investors, is an acronym meaning, Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, (Italian Automobile Factory of Turin). Agnelli was the main force at the company’s helm until 1945. The company produced cars and trucks in the early days and the first Fiat was exported to America in 1908. Beginning in 1910, Fiat has been the largest carmaker in Italy. Shortly thereafter, Fiat opened its first U.S. plant in Poughkeepsie, New York. The Fiat was considered to be a luxury car back then and each car sold for over four thousand dollars. Fords were one-fourth that price.

In WWI, Fiat manufactured only military vehicles and equipment for the allied side. After the war, Fiat held a staggering 80% of the automotive and agriculture market share. World War 2 saw Fiat manufacturing aircraft, armored vehicles and other military items.

After the war, Fiat went back to what it new best, building cars and trucks. In 1963, the founder’s grandson, Gianni Agnelli, became general manager and then became chairman until 1996. Gianni Agnelli reorganized Fiat management and production lines, which streamlined the company and made it much more efficient and profitable. During the late sixties, Fiat out produced and out sold Volkswagen which was a major achievement. Fiat was a dynamic carmaker that was beginning to rival Detroit.

N 2009 Fiat and Chrysler agreed that Fiat would take a 20% stake in Chrysler and provide Chrysler with technology to build fuel efficient and smaller cars. Chrysler would give Fiat access to their distribution networks. Fiat put up no cash for this deal as it was worked out under a deal of exchange of technical information and platform sharing. Fiat was also entitled to an additional 15% when certain goals were met. Fiat’s share percentage would top out at 49%. This global alliance between Chrysler and Fiat made Fiat an official owner of Chrysler Group LLC.  Now there are a large number of FIAT dealerships in North America like Holt Fiat of Fort Worth, Texas. Even though the compact vehicles haven’t faired to well in this market, the introduction of the 500 L (Large) has truly sparked interest in many American consumers in recent months. So this vehicle itself could be the saving grace FIAT and Chrysler has hoped for.


Mark Thompson

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