FIAT is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, a name that says a lot about the origins of the Italian automobile giant which is the largest car manufacturer in Italy and the ninth largest in the world.
Formed in 1899 by Giovanni Agnelli along with some investors, Fiat S.p.A. has been involved in everything from manufacturing automobiles, tanks, aircrafts and engines to running a financial and industrial group.
The first Fiat car Fiat 4 HP, which was also known as 3 ½ CV, was introduced in 1899 (only 8 cars were produced in the year). The company produced its first truck in 1903 and its first aircraft engine in 1908. During the same period, Fiat taxis gained popularity in Europe. And by the year 1910, Fiat became the largest automobile company in Italy. Around the same time, Fiat started production at a plant in New York.
During World War I, Fiat supplied aircraft, guns, trucks, engines and ambulances to the allies. After the war, Fiat launched its first tractor – 702.
In 1922, Fiat started building the Lingotto car factory in Italy (largest in the world at that time). The factory is known for its five floors and the rooftop level where the finished cars ran on a test track.
Again during World War II, Fiat built military machinery, tanks and fighter aircrafts (biplane CR.42, G.55 fighter and Savoia-Marchettis).
Now Agnelli had ties with Mussolini's government and when Mussolini was overthrown, the Agnelli family was removed from the leadership roles in Fiat. However, the family was back on track with Giovanni's grandson Gianni becoming the general manager of the company in 1963.
Fiat acquired Autobianchi in 1967 and purchased controlling interests in Ferrari and Lancia in 1969. 10 years after that, Fiat Auto was formed.
Fiat also acquired Alfa Romeo in 1986 and Maserati in 1993. Maserati entered the American marker under the Fiat group in 2002 and has been successful ever since.
In 1998, Paolo Fresco became the chairman of Fiat and in the next year CNH Global was formed by merging New Holland NV and Case Corporation. In 2000, GM acquired a stake in Fiat Auto but the agreement was dissolved in 2005.
Fiat reorganized its automobile business in 2007 to form Fiat Automobiles S.p.A. (a part of Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A. and a subsidiary of Fiat S.p.A.).
Fiat has entered a joint venture with India's TATA Motors and China's Chery motors. Later in April 2009, Fiat and Chrysler formed an alliance. However in June, Fiat was announced as an owner of Chrysler Group LLC.
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