Fiat, a promoter of Assonebb, is an international auto group that designs, produces and sells vehicles for the mass market under the Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Abarth and Fiat Professional brands, as well as luxury and performance cars under the Ferrari and Maserati brands. The Group has expanded its global reach through the alliance with Chrysler Group, whose product portfolio includes Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and SRT brand vehicles. Fiat Group also operates in the components sector, through Magneti Marelli and Teksid, and in the production systems sector, through Comau.
Fiat was founded at the end of the 1800s – a period filled with the fervour of grand initiatives, inventive spirit and new ideas – and was destined to rapidly become one of the world’s leading industrial groups. Its story is deeply connected with that of industrialisation in Italy and the brand is today a byword for beauty, Italian style, roaring engines and affordable quality.
On 11 July 1899, the deed of incorporation was signed giving birth to Società Anonima Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino – F.I.A.T. The first car built was the 4 HP. In 1900, the first plant was inaugurated and production reached 24 cars a year. In 1902, Giovanni Agnelli became Managing Director. In 1903, the company was listed on the stock exchange and began producing its first vehicles for goods transport. In 1906, out of a total 8 million lire in annual sales, export sales reached 6 million lire. The auto production was expanded with the addition of the 8, 10, 12, 24, 60, 100 and 130 HP models. The company also began making trucks, buses, trams and marine engines. In 1908, the company began the manufacture of aircraft engines: the first developed was the 50hp SA 8/75, which incorporated the experience acquired on the auto racing circuit.
In Europe, as the new century unfolded, significant economic and scientific progress continued. But the outbreak of the Great War had a considerable impact on the industrial activity, as it had to be transformed to support the country’s military effort. In 1910, six new models were launched: the 12-15 HP, 15-20 HP, 20-30 HP, 30-45 HP and the Type 5 and Type 6. Between 1912 and 1914, Fiat cars won a number of international races, such as the American Grand Prize, the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and the Gothenburg-Stockholm Winter Cup. The first small displacement production car, the Fiat Zero, was created. In 1914, as part of the war effort, almost 20,000 units of the 18BL lorry were produced and, in the following years, various aircraft engines. Between 1915 and 1917, construction began in the Lingotto factory, the largest in Europe at the time. The Group entered the steel and railway sectors. In 1919, immediately after the war, the 501 “economy”, 505 and 510, as well as its first tractor, the 702 came out. Life in post-war Italy was marked by intense political and social conflict. These were difficult years for the company, requiring rigorous attention to cost management. In 1923, the crisis being overcome, the Lingotto factory was inaugurated and it became the symbol of a Fiat whose future was then inextricably linked to the concept of industrialised production. Inside the factory, the assembly line was introduced and working methods were transformed. In 1920, Giovanni Agnelli became Chairman of Fiat. In 1922, the AL biplane, Fiat’s first civil aviation aircraft, took its maiden flight. The same year, the company established Grandi Motori for the construction of marine engines.
The Twenties saw the release of many models, including the launch of the SuperFiat, the 519, a six-cylinder luxury car, the 509 and the 503. In 1927, the 520 was offered in left-hand drive and, in 1928, aluminium cylinder heads were adopted on production model cars, representing a world first. 1929 saw the arrival of the economical 514 and the elegant 525. The 1014 van was also launched: with six wheels, dual transmission and articulated chassis, this vehicle was unbeatable off road.
For Fiat, the early 1930s were marked by the consolidation of its manufacturing base and by significant expansion abroad: from France to Spain, Poland and the USSR. In 1930, the “Littorina”, the world’s first railcar, was introduced, while the 700C tractor was launched in 1932. Between 1930 and 1935, Fiat released 15 more models. Some were to become milestones in automobile history: the popular 508 Balilla, the deluxe 518 and 527 Ardita, the aerodynamic 1500, the economic 500 Topolino and the 1100 “Musone”. In 1934, Francesco Agello reached 709.209 kilometres per hour in a Macchi-Castoldi M.C.72 powered by a Fiat AS6 engine, setting a world record for propeller-driven seaplanes that remains unbeaten. In 1937, construction began in the Mirafiori plant. It was inaugurated two years later, introducing the most advanced working methods in Italy.
With entry into the war, Fiat had to convert production to military purposes. The company dramatically reduced the production of cars, while the output of trucks was multiplied five-fold. Armoured vehicles, airplanes and marine engines were also produced. In 1940, the Fiat 016 locomotive exceeded 160 kilometres per hour, breaking the world speed record in the diesel engine category. In 1942, the 700D wheeled tractor and the model “50”, the first diesel-powered heavy crawler, were launched. The latter was hidden underground for fear of requisition by the Germans. It was recovered at the end of the war and mass production began. Senator Agnelli died on 16 December 1945 and Vittorio Valletta became Chairman. The large-scale production of cars was resumed, with models such as the 500B berlinetta and estate, the refreshed 1100 and 1500, and the sporty 1100S. Alongside these were trucks and buses, high-power tractors, railcars, airplanes and large marine engines. In 1949, the number of employees topped 71,000 and the company returned to bottom line growth.
In the Fifties, Italy experienced a period of economic boom and the car industry was one of the main drivers of intense growth: one car for every 96 inhabitants in 1949 became one for every 28 inhabitants in 1958 and one for every 11 inhabitants by 1963. Fiat had more than 85,000 employees and car production grew six-fold over the decade. In 1951, the transatlantic liner Giulio Cesare, powered by a Fiat engine, entered service and Italy’s first jet, the Fiat G.80, took flight. In 1952, the high-performance 8V sports car reached 200 kilometres per hour and the 7002 model helicopter was presented. The same year, production began on the 682N lorry which went on to be produced for more than a quarter of a century and became a milestone in transport history. In 1953, the 1400, Italy’s first diesel-powered passenger car, was launched. In 1955, the popular 600 arrived, the first Fiat rear-wheel drive passenger car. Fiat Impresit, a company specialised in civil engineering founded in 1929, constructed roads, tunnels, bridges and dams, such as the Kariba dam on the Zambesi river. In 1956, the new 500 and the Autobianchi Bianchina were launched. The Fiat G.91 was selected as tactical fighter for the NATO.
The decade of the Sixties began with a general spirit of optimism and the economic miracle continued in Italy. Fiat experienced a dramatic increase in production volumes: the number of cars constructed per year went from 425,000 to 1,741,000; trucks from 19,000 to 64,800; tractors from 22,637 to 50,558; earthmovers from 3,000 to 6,255. Fiat doubled the number of employees to almost 171,000. In 1964, the two-door, five-seat Fiat 850 sedan was launched. In 1966, Giovanni Agnelli, grandson of the founder, became Chairman. A major agreement was signed for the construction of the Vaz plant in Togliattigrad, Russia, which would produce two thousand Zigulì passenger cars a day. In 1967, Vittorio Valletta died. Production began at the Rivalta plant, and Fiat took a majority stake in Magneti Marelli. The 124 was named “Car of the Year” and the Fiat Dino Coupé was launched with its engine based on Ferrari technology. In 1969, the company acquired Lancia and purchased a 50% interest in Sefac-Ferrari. The same year, Fiat Ferroviaria designed and produced the Pendolino, the world’s first tilting train. In 1970, the 128, Fiat’s first front-wheel drive car, was named “Car of the Year”.
Toward the end of the 1960s, there was a long period of protests and social unrest that also involved Fiat and had significant repercussions on the group’s results. Despite these difficulties, the group invested heavily in Southern Italy and began the construction of plants located in Termini Imerese, Cassino, Termoli, Sulmona, Vasto, Bari, Lecce and Brindisi. During the same period, Fiat began the process of decentralising its operating activities, transforming the company into an industrial holding. Among the first companies to be established were Fiat Macchine Movimento Terra, Fiat Engineering, and Iveco. In 1971, the 127 was presented, which achieved extraordinary success and the following year won the “Car of the Year” award. The historic sports brand Abarth became part of the Group.
In 1972, Lancia started the production of Beta, which was followed by Stratos, Gamma and Delta. The same year, Lancia won the World Rally Constructors’ Championship and took the title again in 1974, 1975 and 1976. Fiat won in 1977 and 1978. In 1975, Ferrari won the Formula 1 World Championship. This triumph was repeated in 1977 and 1979. In 1976, Centro Ricerche Fiat was founded. In 1978, the innovative car chassis assembly system, “Robogate”, was installed at some plants. At the same time, new factories were constructed in Italy and Brazil. Comau and Teksid were established. In 1979, Fiat Auto grew and eventually brought together the Fiat, Lancia, Autobianchi and Ferrari brands.
In the Eighties, the industrial world underwent profound changes, linked above all to the development of electronics and new materials. Attention to the environment also increased, and Fiat demonstrated its sensitivity by creating electric and natural gas vehicles, and by setting up the Fare project, for the recycling of cars destined for demolition. In 1980, the launch of Panda took place, which immediately became a key player in the economy segment. In 1983, at Cape Canaveral in Florida, Fiat Auto presented the new Uno, a symbol of innovation and technological rebirth for the company. It went on to win the “Car of the Year” award in 1984. In 1984, Alfa Romeo became part of the Group.
In 1985, the production of the innovative FIRE (Fully Integrated and Robotised Engine) began. Two years later, the world’s first direct-injection diesel engine for passenger cars was developed.In 1988, the state-of-the-art research centre Elasis was established at the Group’s initiative. The same year, the Fiat Tipo was named “Car of the Year”. Other cars to achieve success during the decade were the Fiat Regata and Croma, the Lancia Delta, Thema and Y10, the Alfa Romeo 164, and the Ferrari GTO, Testarossa and F40, as well as the commercial vehicles Fiorino and Ducato.
In the 1990s, in response to increasingly tough international competition, Fiat Group adopted a multi-track strategy: on one side, it invested in product and process innovation and the search for new markets with high development potential outside Europe, and, on the other, it implemented a plan for cost containment and internal reorganisation. In 1990, Panda Elettra was the first mass-produced electric vehicle. In 1993, the company acquired the prestigious automaker Maserati and also introduced Progetto Autonomy to facilitate mobility for the disabled. In 1995, 1996 and 1998, Fiat Punto, Fiat Bravo-Brava and then Alfa Romeo 156 were named “Car of the Year”. In 1997, Alfa Romeo 156 became the first car in the world to be fitted with a diesel engine with the Common Rail system, which, within the space of a few years, revolutionised the market for diesel-powered cars. In 1998, the Fiat Multipla, Lancia Lybra and new Punto arrived on the market. In 1999, the world’s first automated manual transmission (Selespeed) went into mass production. During the same year, CNH-Case New Holland was formed to create a leading global player in agricultural and construction equipment.
During the first decade of the 21th century, the Group went through a profound cultural change and refocused its activities to concentrate on the automotive sector. All the brands of the Group launched new models: Fiat presented a restyling of Punto, the new Idea, Bravo, and re-launched the iconic 500; Alfa Romeo debuted with the 159, 166, MiTo and Giulietta; for its 100th anniversary, Lancia launched the new Ypsilon; from Maranello, production of the innovative Ferrari F430 and 599 GTB Fiorano began; whereas Maserati came out with the captivating GranSport and GranTurismo coupés. In 2000, an industrial alliance was formed with General Motors that would be dissolved in 2005. Alfa Romeo brought out the 147, which was elected “Car of the Year” the following year. In 2000, Fiat presented Stilo, and the following year Lancia launched Thesis, its new flagship luxury model. In 2003, after almost half a century at the helm of the company, Giovanni Agnelli died and his brother Umberto took over as Chairman. Fiat invented the MultiJet technology and the SDE, the smallest direct-injection diesel engine ever produced. In Brazil, the company introduced the flexfuel technology, which enables two different fuels (e.g., gasoline and ethanol) to be mixed in the same tank. In 2004, Umberto Agnelli died and the Group’s new leaders were appointed: Luca Cordero di Montezemolo as Chairman, John Elkann as Vice Chairman and Sergio Marchionne as Chief Executive Officer. Panda won the “Car of the Year” award. In 2005, Fiat Group returned to profitability and the 16v 1.3 MultiJet engine was named “Engine of the Year”. FPT Powertrain Technologies was established. In 2006, the launch of the TetraFuel system for alternative fuels took place. In 2007, at the end of January, Fiat launched the new Bravo. In March, one of the most prestigious sports car brands in history, Abarth, was re-launched with its reinterpretation of Grande Punto. On July 4th, the new Fiat 500 hit the market and became an instant success. In 2008, it was named “Car of the Year”. In 2008, the new Lancia Delta, Alfa 8C Spider, the 500 Abarth and Fiorino were all presented for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show. A few months later, Fiat launched the “free space” Qubo and the Grande Punto Natural Power. On 10 June 2009, Fiat Group and Chrysler Group LLC announced that they had signed a global strategic alliance. The same year, FPT introduced the MultiJet II as well as the MultiAir, a revolutionary electro-hydraulic valve control system. In December, the new Doblò arrived. In addition, Fiat S.p.A. was recognised as a sustainability leader and entered the Dow Jones Sustainability World and Dow Jones Sustainability STOXX indexes. In 2010, John Elkann became Chairman of Fiat. The company launched two important innovations, the TCT (Twin Clutch Transmission) technology and the TwinAir, the world’s first high-tech two-cylinder engine. In April, the debut of Alfa Romeo Giulietta took place, and the 500,000th unit of the new 500 rolled off the production line. On September 16th, the shareholders approved the plan for the demerger of Fiat S.p.A.’s industrial activities and the creation of a new group headed by Fiat Industrial S.p.A.. The demerger took effect on 1 January 2011. Under the new structure, Fiat consists of FGA, Ferrari, Maserati, Magneti Marelli, Teksid, Comau and Fiat Powertrain Technologies (the “Passenger & Commercial Vehicles” powertrain business). The new group headed by Fiat Industrial S.p.A., which is listed on Borsa Italiana (Italian Stock Exchange), consists of CNH, Iveco and FPT Industrial (the “Industrial & Marine” powertrain business).
Fiat S.p.A. is today engaged in accelerating and consolidating the process of integration with Chrysler, in order to establish an international car-building company determined to be one of the leaders in the sector.
At 31.12.2012, the total revenues of Gruppo Fiat were 59,559 million euros, with 197,021 employees all over the world, 155 plants (46 of which in Italy), 77 research and development centres, and international deals in Europe, Asia and America.
Lastly, since 1963, Centro Storico Fiat, located in Turin, is hosted by an Art Nouveau building that was built as the first expansion (1907) of the workshops located on Corso Dante, the company's first home. Centro Storico Fiat hosts a collection of automobiles, mementos, models and advertising manifestos by artists spanning the company's entire history.
Fiat is a promoter of Assonebb and it supports the development of Bankpedia.
The history of Fiat in six minutes has been summarised by Sky Tg 24 (audio in Italian).