For most Americans, the primary time they heard the title Fiat was when the Italian automaker purchased a major stake in Chrysler Corp. after it declared chapter in 2009. Not lengthy after, the Fiat 500 arrived, together with a failed try to turn into the following scorching small automotive model a la Mini.
But the corporate has American roots that date to the flip of the twentieth Century — even longer in Italy. During this week in 1899, Fiat is established by Giovanni Agnelli.
The begin of a household empire
Agnelli was born in Italy’s Villar Perosa in 1866, later attending the Collegio San Giuseppe in Turin. He enlists within the navy after graduating and dealing as a cavalry officer there till 1893, when he learns of a scorching new invention: the “horseless vehicle.”
One such automobile is being constructed by Ceirano GB & C car firm in Turin. Founded in October 1888 by Giovanni Battista Ceirano, the corporate begins constructing the Welleyes car in 1899. Meanwhile, on the similar time throughout city, Agnelli establishes Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, or Italian Car Factory of Turin, with a bunch of traders. Later, the company shortens its title to Fiat.
Agnelli is aware of a great factor when he sees it, buying the Wellseye’s patents and manufacturing services that very same 12 months. Giovanni joins Agnelli because the Wellseye turns into the premise for the corporate’s first mannequin: the Fiat 4 HP.
Thirty-five individuals labored in Fiat’s first manufacturing facility when it initially opened in 1900. Agnelli was the youngest of the three founders of the enterprise, appearing as secretary to the board, however in 1902, he’s promoted to managing director.
Fiat’s American journey
As a results of Agnelli’s management, Fiat opens a dealership in New York City in 1906, promoting imported Fiats to such clients reminiscent of August Anheuser Busch Sr. of the St. Louis-based brewing firm that bears his title. Unlike at the moment, the place Fiat is thought for its diminutive, affordably priced vehicles like the five hundred and 500X crossover, a century in the past, it was fairly the other; the corporate constructed massive luxurious touring vehicles and limousines.
By 1910, is Italy’s largest automaker.
It’s about this time that Agnelli builds the corporate’s first overseas manufacturing website in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Creating an American manufacturing facility at the moment was uncommon for a European company like Fiat. Wall Street, which in 1909 offered funding for the American Fiat Automobile Company, applauds the choice. While Agnelli inexplicably put in diamond service provider Ben Eichberg as American Fiat’s president, different senior officers had labored at automakers, together with Pope-Toldeo, Lozier and Thomas. Additionally, since “The Horseless Age” journal’s board included Fiat’s treasurer John Treas, wonderful protection was assured. The firm’s vehicles have been designed in Turin and inbuilt Poughkeepsie, with royalties paid to its Italian relative on every automotive bought.
What they bought
The firm’s first mannequin was the four-cylinder, 30-horsepower Type 54. In 1912, the bigger Type 56, a seven-passenger Touring car constructed significantly for the American market, was launched. It had a big 8.6-liter L-head six-cylinder engine that was mated to an unsynchronized four-speed handbook transmission and rear mechanical drum brakes to supply 45 horsepower. The 42-horsepower four-cylinder Type 55 debuted in 1913, whereas the next 12 months, the 25-horsepower four-cylinder Type 53 arrived. With 4 fashions supplied, 1914 would turn into the corporate’s early excessive level.
A turning level
However, elevated manufacturing capability was required, “something the Italian owners are at present unable, or unwilling to undertake,” reported The Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle on the time, including that Fiat was extraordinarily profitable and deliberate to develop after the struggle. However, as soon as Fiat in Italy acquired the American enterprise in 1917, the Type 55 grew to become the one mannequin accessible till the tip of the 12 months, when manufacturing ended because of World War I.
Several commerce magazines said in February 1918 that Duesenberg Motors of Elizabeth, New Jersey acquired the tools from the Fiat facility to increase the manufacturing of Bugatti plane engines. Fiat officers promised to begin making vehicles in Poughkeepsie till new tools was arrange on the manufacturing facility by the center of 1918, nevertheless it by no means occurred. The manufacturing facility was shut down.
The remainder of the story
Fiat employed greater than 30,000 employees and ran its Turin services at full capability all through World War I, offering ammunition to the Italian armed forces. Despite Italy’s transition to communism, the corporate would proceed to increase and finally rank among the many largest industrial firms on the planet. Agnelli was in cost up till 1945, when the Italian Committee of National Liberation pressured him out of the group. In 1966, the Agnelli household reclaimed possession of Fiat.
But it was throughout the post-World War II period that Fiat re-entered the American market, though numbers have been modest at greatest. The firm didn’t make a concerted effort at exporting to the United States till 1957. Whatever gross sales success the corporate loved was dissipating by the late Nineteen Seventies. In 1986, Fiat withdrew from the American market as soon as once more.
Yet the corporate returned to America in 2009, buying 20% of Chrysler Corp. after Chrysler declared chapter in 2009. Within two years, Fiat acquired all of Chrysler and have become often called Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, till merging with French automaker PSA Group to turn into Stellantis in 2021.
The Agnelli household remains to be very a lot related to Fiat via John Elkann, Giovanni Agnelli’s great-great-grandson. Elkann is chairman and CEO of Exor, the Agnelli household’s holding firm, which owns stakes in each Ferrari and Stellantis.