The history of FIAT began many years ago, at the dawn of Italian industrialisation, in which the company has always played a leading role. From that moment on, the FIAT brand spread throughout the world and developed extensively.
Today, following a change in corporate culture and mentality, the name FIAT is still fraught with meaning, and not only on account of the cars we produce - cars with attractive styling and exciting engines, cars that are accessible and improve the quality of everyday life - but also on account of our heritage and tradition: let's take a stroll back in time through the brand's history.
FIAT was founded
On 11 July 1899 at Palazzo Bricherasio, the company charter of Società Anonima Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino was signed. Among the members of the Board of Directors, Giovanni Agnelli stood out in the group of investors and won recognition for his determination and strategic vision. In 1902 he became the Managing Director of the company.
The first factory was opened
The first factory was opened in 1900 in Corso Dante. 150 workers were employed there and produced 24 cars, among which was the 3/12 HP, not yet fitted with reverse gear. The FIAT® logo, oval on a blue background and designed by Biscaretti, was adopted in 1904.
First wins in the races
The first Car Tour of Italy saw 9 Fiat cars arrive at the finish line. The first real competition car, a 24 HP driven by Vincenzo Lancia, won the Sassi-Superga uphill race in 1902. Giovanni Agnelli himself ran in the Second Tour of Italy and set a record in an 8 HP.
Fiat expands outside Italy
Fiat had already proved to be heading toward the most promising markets and in 1908 Fiat Automobile Co. was founded in the United States. In those years the company grew and new companies sprung up with specific functions. Production increased: cars were flanked by commercial vehicles, marine engines, trucks, trams.
The company renovates its production
In a few years Fiat completely renovated its production: the cars were fitted with electrical accumulators for the first time. The cardan transmission, a FIAT patent, began to be used. Fiat cars continued to shine in the competitions and set several records.
The Lingotto factory
In 1916 the construction of Lingotto started under the direction of Giacomo Mattè Trucco. The Factory, the largest in Europe, occupied five floors and had a futuristic test track on the roof. It soon became the emblem of the Italian automotive industry and was completed in 1922.
Fiat expands to new sectors
In the meantime Fiat expanded its activities to the steel industry, the railway, electricity and public transportation lines. Fiat Lubrificanti was established and the first Italian subsidiary was opened in Russia. When the War broke out, company production was almost entirely aimed at supplying the army.
Post-war crisis and recovery
After the war there were years of transformation and crisis but as early as 1923 growth resumed thanks to an effective cost-curbing policy. Giovanni Agnelli became the CEO. Numerous car models were launched, among which the 509, the first car with four seats.
Development of the company
The policy adopted by the company was to develop industrial mass production. Mass production was launched as the only way to curb the prohibitive prices of cars. During a phase of increasing consumption, Sava, a holding company was set up to promote instalment plans for purchasing cars. IFI, Istituto Finanziario Industriale, was also established at that time.
Services for employees
These years were also significant for the internal growth of Fiat. Numerous organizations for employees were established: from health care to specialized schools to sports clubs.
Falling back on the domestic market
During the years of Mussolini’s autarchic policy, Fiat too had to rescale its plans for international presence and concentrate on the domestic market. In the Thirties trucks and commercial vehicles underwent considerable technological development and at the same time the aviation and railway sectors grew.
The new cars
In 1934 and 1936 two cars came out and were destined to an enormous public: the “Balilla”, also called “Tariffa minima” due to its low consumption of fuel, and the “Topolino”, the smallest utilitarian car in the world, which was produced until 1955.
The Mirafiori factory
In 1937 works started for the great Mirafiori plant, which introduced the most advanced principles of industrial organisation and confirmed company focus on mass production.
Second World War
During the war years there was a drastic reduction in the production of cars, while the construction of commercial vehicles increased considerably.
Changes in the top management
In 1945 Senator Giovanni Agnelli died and the presidency of the Fiat was assumed by Vittorio Valletta.
In 1948 the reconstruction of the plants destroyed during the war was completed, also thanks to the American subsidies from the Marshall plan.
Profits started to grow and the number of employees also increased.
Commitment to research
With two new cars such as the 500 and the 1400, Fiat confirmed its commitment to research and innovation. For the first time the heating and ventilation systems were installed in mass production.
Research continued on marine and aircraft engines: in 1951 the first Italian jet aircraft came into being, the G80.
In 1953 the first Fiat diesel engined vehicle was presented, the 1400 diesel.
The beginning of the economic boom
In 1958 production started growing enormously, both for automobiles and farm machinery.
Mirafiori doubled its factories and Fiat set up new manufacturing plants abroad as well.
In Italy this was the period of the economic boom and the auto sector was the ‘driving force’ of the economy.
The new models
In 1955 the Fiat 600 was born, a big utilitarian car with a rear mounted engine.
In 1957 the New 500 was presented and in 1960 it began to be produced in the ‘Giardinetta’ version, a precursor of the Station Wagon style.
Moreover, these were the years of Fiat 1800, then 1300 and 1500.
The economic boom and social unrest
Growth continued in exports as well as production: the trend showed an increase from one car every 96 inhabitants to one every 28.
In the meantime Fiat boosted its presence in southern Italy by setting up numerous factories there.
There was also an increase in trade union conflicts: in 1969 total hours on strike reached 15 million.
The new cars
After Fiat 850, a new popular utilitarian car, the 127, made its debut in 1971.
In 1966 Giovanni Agnelli, the grandson of the founder, became President of the company.
In those years there was a trend toward increased automation of the manufacturing processes to cope with the oil crisis and to continue on the road of technological innovation.
The Robogate system
In 1978 the “Robogate” system was created, the new flexible robotized system for assembling the bodywork.
It was the road to innovation and the automation of production.
The holding configuration
In 1979 the auto sector was set up as an independent company: Fiat Auto S.p.A., which included the brands Fiat, Lancia, Autobianchi, Abarth, Ferrari.
The Ferrari brand was acquired at 50% initially, a share that later rose to 87%.
In 1984 the company also took over Alfa Romeo (following by Maserati acquisition - a prestigious sports car brand - in 1993).
Fiat’s numerous operations were set up as independent companies.
Alongside Fiat Auto the following companies were founded: Fiat Ferroviaria, Fiat Avio, Fiat Trattori, Fiat Engineering, Comau, Teksid, Magneti Marelli.
The Fiat Panda and the Fiat Uno
In 1980 a new utilitarian was styled by Giugiaro for Fiat and was called Panda.
Two years later the car that would become the emblem of Fiat Auto’s renewal was born: the Fiat Uno. It featured radical innovations in its electronics, choice of materials and the use of a clean engine: the 1000 Fire.
The Fiat Tipo
Another successful model appeared in 1989: the Tipo, voted “Car of the year” for its cutting-edge technical solutions.
Its production marked a conquest of Fiat technology: production by processing stations.
The new cars of the 1990s
After the debut of the Fiat Tempra in 1990, the 500 came out in 1991.
Two years later, in 1993, it was the moment of Fiat Punto (named “Car of the Year” in 1995) and Fiat Coupé, with bodywork designed by Pininfarina and Centro Stile Fiat.
Other popular cars
With Fiat Ulysse, which came out in 1994, the company made its entry in a sector that was progressively expanding: the SUV. 1995 saw the debut of the Barchetta, the Fiat Bravo and Brava, followed the next year by Fiat Marea and Marea WE, and in 1997 Fiat Palio.
Changes at the top and a new registered office
In 1996 Giovanni Agnelli became the Honorary President of the Fiat Group and Cesare Romiti took the office of CEO.
In 1997 the parent company left its premises in Corso Marconi and moved to the Palazzina Fiat of Lingotto, which in the meantime had been converted into a Trade Fair and Convention Complex.
The last born in 1990s and the first born of the new century
1998 was the year of Fiat Seicento, ideal for city driving, and the Multipla, characterised by flexible use and uncommon versatility. Two years later, at the Paris Motor Show, Fiat Doblò was presented: a young car, informal, that also served the functions of a commercial vehicle. Meanwhile, in Brazil, the three world cars were launched: the Palio, Palio Weekend and Siena.
In 2001 Fiat Stilo was launched, characterized by a new design, with sophisticated technology and numerous deluxe options; the following year Fiat Multipla, New Fiat Ulysse and Fiat Stilo Multi Wagon were restyled.
In 2003 – the year that saw the sad death of Giovanni Agnelli, who had been at the helm of Fiat for almost half a century - the new Punto was marketed (exactly 10 years after the model was first launched) with the innovative 1.3 Multijet 16v, and the new Barchetta was restyled inside and out.
In the autumn Fiat reclaimed its leading position in the super-compact segment with the new Panda, immediately awarded the prize '2004 Car of the Year'.
The restyling of the logo on Fiat Idea
Fiat Idea was the first MPV created by Fiat but also the first car with the task of communicating the brand’s new ‘mission’: Fiat Idea displayed the round logo, renewed and proposed by Centro Stile Fiat to evoke the emblem designed to celebrate the Company’s 100th Anniversary.
It was also meant to get across the most significant change in Fiat car design: more attention to high-tech content and intelligent solutions designed to simplify several aspects of daily life in the car.
Fuel saving and top performing, this engine proved a real success factor on the new Fiat car models.
The new system – born of the evolution of the ‘Common Rail’ principle – is the basis of the new second-generation Fiat engines: the small 1.3 Multijet 16v, the sporty 1.9 Multijet 120 and 150 bhp and the powerful 1.4 90 bhp.
Three years of new models
The years 2004-2006 were an extremely busy time for the Turin company, which, following a profound change in corporate culture and mentality, focused on a continuous, rapid overhaul of its products, on technological research, on the quality of its designs and on a new, constructive relationship with the customer.
During these years, this new philosophy gave rise to a series of new models, and some restyling of older models: from the restyling of the Fiat Idea Model Year, Seicento MY and Stilo MY to the new Multipla and the launch of the Panda 4x4, in 2004; 2005 began with the launch of the new Croma, designed by Giugiaro, the new 600 (celebrating its 50th anniversary), and the Grande Punto - beautiful, solid and exciting.
2006 saw the launch of the New Doblò and Sedici, the 4x4xTUTTI for city and off-road driving, and the official car of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, while the Panda MY 2007 range was extended and overhauled.
The debut of the new logo on the Bravo
2007 began with the launch of the Bravo – preceded by the first ever institutional Fiat blog.
Bravo is the first car to sport the new Fiat logo as a tangible sign of the company’s turnaround. The new Bravo is a successful blend of beauty and substance, destined to become a benchmark for the segment.