The Rearview Mirror: The Founding of Fiat



The first Fiat, the Fiat 3-1/2 Liter

For most Us residents, the to start with time they heard the title Fiat was when the Italian automaker bought a important stake in Chrysler Corp. immediately after it declared personal bankruptcy in 2009. Not very long right after, the Fiat 500 arrived, alongside with a unsuccessful try to turn out to be the next sizzling compact automobile model a la Mini.

But the enterprise has American roots that date to the turn of the 20th Century — even for a longer period in Italy. During this week in 1899, Fiat is established by Giovanni Agnelli.

The start off of a spouse and children empire

Giovanni Agnelli, founder of Fiat

Agnelli was born in Italy’s Villar Perosa in 1866, later attending the Collegio San Giuseppe in Turin. He enlists in the navy immediately after graduating and functioning as a cavalry officer there right up until 1893, when he learns of a hot new invention: the “horseless car.” 

1 this kind of vehicle is staying crafted by Ceirano GB & C car firm in Turin. Founded in Oct 1888 by Giovanni Battista Ceirano, the corporation starts setting up the Welleyes auto in 1899. In the meantime, at the very same time across city, Agnelli establishes Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, or Italian Automobile Manufacturing facility of Turin, with a team of investors. Afterwards, the company shortens its title to Fiat. 

Agnelli appreciates a excellent detail when he sees it, obtaining the Wellseye’s patents and production facilities that similar calendar year. Giovanni joins Agnelli as the Wellseye becomes the basis for the company’s to start with product: the Fiat 4 HP.

Thirty-5 persons worked in Fiat’s very first manufacturing facility when it at first opened in 1900. Agnelli was the youngest of the three founders of the small business, acting as secretary to the board, but in 1902, he is promoted to running director. 

Fiat’s American journey

The initial Fiat manufacturing facility in Turin, Italy.

As a consequence of Agnelli’s management, Fiat opens a dealership in New York Town in 1906, selling imported Fiats to this sort of customers such as August Anheuser Busch Sr. of the St. Louis-dependent brewing corporation that bears his identify. Compared with now, the place Fiat is identified for its diminutive, affordably priced cars like the 500 and 500X crossover, a century in the past, it was rather the reverse the business created massive deluxe touring automobiles and limousines. 

By 1910, is Italy’s premier automaker.

It’s about this time that Agnelli builds the company’s 1st foreign production web page in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Building an American factory at that time was unusual for a European corporation like Fiat. Wall Avenue, which in 1909 provided funding for the American Fiat Automobile Enterprise, applauds the selection. Whilst Agnelli inexplicably installed diamond service provider Ben Eichberg as American Fiat’s president, other senior officials experienced worked at automakers, together with Pope-Toldeo, Lozier and Thomas. Additionally, considering the fact that “The Horseless Age” magazine’s board involved Fiat’s treasurer John Treas, excellent protection was guaranteed. The company’s vehicles have been developed in Turin and created in Poughkeepsie, with royalties paid out to its Italian relative on every single auto offered.

Fiat’s first international manufacturing facility in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

What they marketed

The company’s initial product was the four-cylinder, 30-horsepower Variety 54. In 1912, the much larger Kind 56, a seven-passenger Touring car crafted particularly for the American market, was introduced. It experienced a big 8.6-liter L-head 6-cylinder motor that was mated to an unsynchronized four-pace handbook transmission and rear mechanical drum brakes to make 45 horsepower. The 42-horsepower four-cylinder Style 55 debuted in 1913, even though the following yr, the 25-horsepower four-cylinder Variety 53 arrived. With four products made available, 1914 would switch out to be the company’s early superior place.

A turning position

American-crafted Fiats in the company’s manufacturing facility in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Photograph Credit rating: Simeone Foundation Museum

Nonetheless, elevated output potential was demanded, “something the Italian entrepreneurs are at current unable, or unwilling to undertake,” claimed The Poughkeepsie Day by day Eagle at the time, introducing that Fiat was really profitable and prepared to mature right after the war. On the other hand, the moment Fiat in Italy acquired the American small business in 1917, the Form 55 became the only design obtainable till the close of the yr, when output finished as a outcome of Globe War I.

A number of trade magazines mentioned in February 1918 that Duesenberg Motors of Elizabeth, New Jersey acquired the gear from the Fiat facility to grow the production of Bugatti plane engines. Fiat officials promised to start out generating automobiles in Poughkeepsie till new gear was established up at the manufacturing unit by the middle of 1918, but it never happened. The manufacturing facility was shut down.

Ad for an American-built Fiat

The rest of the story

Fiat employed much more than 30,000 employees and ran its Turin facilities at entire capacity through Entire world War I, furnishing ammunition to the Italian armed forces. Inspite of Italy’s changeover to communism, the enterprise would go on to extend and at some point rank among the the greatest industrial businesses in the world. Agnelli was in demand up till 1945, when the Italian Committee of Nationwide Liberation pressured him out of the business. In 1966, the Agnelli loved ones reclaimed ownership of Fiat.

But it was throughout the publish-Planet War II period that Fiat re-entered the American marketplace, while quantities have been modest at greatest. The enterprise did not make a concerted effort at exporting to the United States till 1957. Regardless of what profits results the company savored was dissipating by the late 1970s. In 1986, Fiat withdrew from the American market place after all over again.

John Elkann at Ferrari Market Day 2022 close
Chairman John Elkann speaks at the begin of the company’s Money Sector Working day event.

Still the corporation returned to The united states in 2009, acquiring 20% of Chrysler Corp. just after Chrysler declared bankruptcy in 2009. Inside two decades, Fiat obtained all of Chrysler and turned acknowledged as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, until finally merging with French automaker PSA Team to come to be Stellantis in 2021. 

The Agnelli spouse and children is still pretty substantially connected with Fiat by means of John Elkann, Giovanni Agnelli’s terrific-good-grandson. Elkann is chairman and CEO of Exor, the Agnelli family’s keeping company, which owns stakes in both Ferrari and Stellantis.


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