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Fiat History


The logo of FIAT, one of Italy's best known companies 

 

Fiat has held a leading role in the automotive industry since its inception in 1899, at the dawn of Italian industrialization. From the moment they first appeared on the market, Fiat products, today ranging well beyond automobiles, have been extensively developed and recognized worldwide. Its logo has become a great status symbol due to a history of superior cars, prestige, history and tradition. 

 

 

Fiat 1899 to 1911

 

The charter of Società Anonima Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino or Fiat, was signed on July 11, 1899. Giovanni Agnelli was on the Board of Directors, but quickly distinguished himself as the Company's innovator. He was determined Fiat would be highly successful and had great strategic vision. Because of these qualities, he became Managing Director of Fiat in 1902.

 

Fiat's First Factories and Races

In 1900, the first Fiat factory opened in corso Dante, in Turin, with a workforce of 150 people. Fiat saw 24 cars roll off the assembly line that first year, including the company's first model, the 3 ½ CV. By 1904, a Fiat logo had been designed as an oval with a blue background. When Italy hosted the first Car Tour of the country, nine Fiats crossed the finish line. By 1902, driver Vincenzo Lancia won the Sassi-Superga uphill race, in the famous Fiat 24 hp model. Giovanni Agnelli, President of Fiat, represented the company on the racetrack, driving an 8 hp Fiat in the second Italian Car Tour and set a record in that race.

 

In 1908, Fiat opened the Fiat Automobile Company in the US. The Company grew in leaps and bounds: at that time, a Fiat was a luxury item in America, costing thousands more than the average domestic car of the period. Fiat continued to grow at a swift rate and it wasn't long before the company expanded its product line with trucks, trams, marine engines and commercial vehicles.

 

Towards the end of Fiat's early production period, the company was to undergo some changes, and overhaul its production. Fiat began fitting its cars with electrical accumulators, and also patented the cardan transmission. 

 

 

Fiat 1912 to 1925

 

The Lingotto is a cornerstone of Fiat's history (by Alessadro at flickr.com)

 

Under the new leadership of Giacomo Malle Trucco, construction of the famous Lingotto factory began in 1916. It was to be the largest factory in Europe, with a unique five floors assembly line that finished with a futuristic test track constructed on the building's roof. The factory was completed in 1922 and became the symbol of the automotive industry in Italy for decades to come. During WWI Fiat devoted itself to supplying the Allied Forces with weapons, aircraft and vehicles.

 

New Sectors

Fiat began to explore new sectors before and after WWI, becoming active in electricity, public transportation lines, railways and the steel industry. A subsidiary was established in Russia and Fiat Lubrificanti was founded.

 

Crisis and Recovery

When the war ended, a time of crisis hit Fiat and the company's factories were briefly held by workers of the Italian Socialist Party in 1921. Fortunately recovery came quickly and, by 1923, Fiat was already showing signs of growth, due in part to some very effective cost-cutting policies. At this time, Giovanni Agnelli was promoted to the position of CEO of Fiat. Several new car models were released, including the four-seat 509. Fiat set a goal to create industrial mass production in order to decrease the cost of their cars. A holding company was established to enable purchasers to pay for Fiats through installments. As the company grew worldwide, Fiat also grew internally between 1912 and 1925. They were quick to recognize their employees' needs and established a health care plan, sports clubs and specialized schools.

 

 

Fiat 1926 to 1938

 

Fiat Topolino: a piece of Fiat History (by argentum nitricum at flickr.com)

 

When Mussolini's come to power in Italy, Fiat had to abandon many of its plans for an international presence. Fiat would now concentrate on producing the needed equipment for the domestic market. The company responded with new technology and designs in commercial vehicles, trucks, as well as railways and aircrafts.

 

Two new Fiat cars were introduced between 1934 and 1936. The Topolino was the smallest utilitarian car in the world,  and continued to be produced until 1955. The Tariffa Minima, better known as the Balilla, was very popular because of excellent gas mileage.

 

Fiat Balilla: still beautiful, almost 100 years later (by Werner Wittersheim at flickr.com)

 

The Mirafiori Plant

The Mirafiori Plant was a brand new factory that introduced advanced principals for industrial organization in 1937. The factory's focus was directed toward mass production and greatly increased Fiat's output capacity.

 

 

Fiat 1939 to 1964

 

When WWII broke out, the production of cars nearly ceased, as Fiat manufactured commercial and military vehicles, aircraft, weapons and machinery for the war effort. By the end of the war, Giovanni Agnelli, the President of Fiat, died in 1945. Vittorio Valletta was to lead the company in post-war Italy.

During WWII, many of Fiat's factories were destroyed, but by 1948 reconstruction had begun. Fiat's profits increased considerably and more employees were hired to fulfill the company's commitment to innovation and research after the war.

 

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Fiat 500, one of the most popular models in Fiat history (by eek the cat at flickr.com)

 

Two new cars, the 500 and 1400 were introduced and mass production included the installation of heating and ventilation systems for the first time. Fiat continued its research on aircraft and marine engines and in 1951, the G830 jet aircraft was born: the first for Italy.

The 1400 diesel was introduced in 1953. By 1958, Fiat had grown in the production of both cars and farm machinery and established plants abroad while doubling the Mirafiori complex. Italy was in the middle of an economic boom and its automobile sector was the driving force behind it, fueled by Fiat innovation.

 

New Fiat Models

The Fiat 600 was introduced in 1955 and was a big utilitarian automobile with the engine mounted in the rear. The New 500 was released in 1957 and by 1960, the Giardinetta version was produced - a precursor of the Station Wagon. This was also the time when well-known models like the Fiat 13001500 and 1800 were released.

 

 

Fiat 1965 to 1977

 

A Fiat 127 commercial from 1976 (by John Lloyd, at flickr.com)

 

Fiat continued to experience growth of production into the mid 1960s, in both exports and domestic sales. Car ownership in Italy changed from one car for every 96 Italians to one in 28. Fiat was poised to take advantage of the increase and established several factories in southern Italy. However, this was also the beginning of the infamous trade union conflicts and so, by 1969, millions of man hours were lost to strikes all over Italy.

 

Changing Fiat Presidency and New Models

The grandson of founder Giovanni Agnelli, Gianni Agnelli, became President of Fiat in 1966. Like his grandfather, he ensured the company followed a trend of innovation with increased automation in the production process. The first new Fiat to be released during these years was the 850, followed in 1971 by the 127, which was a great success. The 127 was the

first Fiat to have front wheel drive and was named Car of the Year 1971.

 

 

Fiat 1978 to 1990

 

To keep Fiat on the path to automation of production, Robogate, a flexible robotic system for assembling bodywork was introduced to factories in 1978. Fiat was also becoming an economic, as well as industrial powerhouse, as it began to acquire other well-known Italian brands such as Lancia, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati: Fiat became Fiat Auto S.p.A. Between 1978 and 1990 Fiat also setup numerous operations as independent companies. These included Fiat Avio, Fiat Engineering, Comau, Fiat Ferraviaria, Magneti Marelli and Teksid.

 

New Models

The no-frills, affordable Fiat Panda hatchback was styled by Giugiaro for the company in 1980, which was followed up with the Uno, in 1982. The Uno replaced the 127 and became the emblem of Fiat Auto's renewal and featured radical changes in its electronics and choice of the material used to build it. Fiat's 1000 Fire engine was also introduced at this time.

In 1989, the Tipo was released as a small family hatchback. It had cutting edge technical solutions and marked a conquest for Fiat technology. It was very popular on the international market and was named 1989 Car of the Year.

 

Fiat Tipo, 1990 (by Niels de Wit, at flickr.com)

 

 

Fiat 1991 to 2003

 

In 1990, the Fiat Tempra made its debut into the family car market. One year later, the latest version of the 500 or Cinquecento was released. The Fiat Punto and the Fiat Coupé rolled off the assembly line during this time, with the supermini Punto being named Car of the Year in 1995.

 

Fiat made its debut into SUVs in 1994, with the introduction of the Fiat Ulysse.  In 1995, the BravoBrava and the Barchetta were released with the Bravo/Brava bringing Fiat yet another European Car of the Year award for 1996.

 

Administration Changes

1996 saw changes at the top of Fiat as Cesare Romiti took over as CEO, making Gianni Agnelli Honorary President of Fiat Group. By 1997, Fiat had outgrown its old corporate headquarters on Turin's Corso Marconi and moved to the Palazzina Fiat at the Lingotto. By this time, The Palazzina Fiat of Lingotto had been transformed from the famous factory into Europe's largest convention and trade show complex.

 

Crisis

During the 1990s, Fiat was once again facing a crisis in the form of market competition. In order to cope, the company expanded further into the international market, making Fiat one of the most recognized worldwide producers of affordable vehicles. It has since successfully achieved this global presence with more than 60% of sales outside of Italy. To commemorate the 100 Year Anniversary of Fiat, the company logo was revised from the oval to a round version.

 

In 1998, Fiat released the Seicento as a replacement for the 500. The car became  known as a great compact car, perfect for city driving. The innovative design of the Multipla was once featured in a modern art exhibit at New York City's MOMA. This compact MPV was introduced the same year as the Seicento.


A New Century of Fiat

In 2000, Fiat Doblò was introduced at the Paris Motor Show as both an informal car and a commercial vehicle. It was named 2006 International Van of the Year. The Fiat Stilo was released in 2001 to replace the Bravo/Brava. The Stilo had numerous options and highly sophisticated technology, as well as a new design. 2002 saw the New Fiat Ulysse, the Fiat Multipla and the Fiat Stilo MW restyled.

Although 2003 saw the death of Gianni Agnelli after nearly 50 years of service, the year also saw the new Punto launched with an innovative 1.3 Multijet 16v. Later that fall, the new Panda was released and was almost immediately named Car of the Year for 2004.

 

 

Fiat 2004 to Today

 

In January 2004, the Fiat Idea made its debut: it was the first full-sized MPV built by Fiat and the design was truly unique. The Idea was made taller to improve visibility and its interior was enhanced for flexibility, including sliding rear seats.

2007 saw the Fiat 500 have stiffer suspension, wider fenders and a 150 hp turbo 4-cylinder engine that runs from zero to 60 in eight seconds. The Fiat Sedici is a smart looking mini SUV at home in the city or country introduced in 2006.

 

Fiat Idea (by RL GNZLZ at flickr.com)

 

Fiat continues on the path of innovation and superior technology into the 21st century with a line of new engines and new models. Men of the reform have been Sergio Marchionne and Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, who have also lead Fiat into the acquisition of Chrysler in 2009. Thanks to the acquisition and Marchionne's will, Fiat enters again the north American market, after 10 years of absence. In spite of the crisis, Fiat introduced new models: the Alfa 159, the Fiat Nuova 500 and La Grande Punto, which was the most popular car in Italy in 2006. In 2010, John Ellkan is nominated president of Fiat and a 5 year plan for the development of the company is created: between 2010 and 2014, Fiat has restructered its sectors' organization through the creation of Fiat Industrial, where all activities related to the production of industrial machineries have converged. Fiat Industrial passed under the presidence of Marchionne, whereas Fiat S.p.a. (which regulates the production of cars, parts, systems production) and the editorial sector have remained under the presidency of Elkann. Marchionne remains Fiat S.p.a's CEO. 

 

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castelvecchio verona
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Castellaccio dei Monteroni Castellaccio of Monteroni is one of the most important historical monuments of the town of Ladispoli. The castle is actually a fortified farmhouse built during the Middle Ages close to the ancient route of Via Aurelia. The castle is located in the heart of the Monteroni archeological area, which has several large Etruscan mounds. The castle is a very rare example of a fortified farmhouse. Located 35 km from Rome, many tourists from all over the world visit it
Friday, June 1st, 2012
View of the city of Perugia   If visiting Perugia be sure to visit Rocca Paolina, which may not be the first castle to be built in the city, but is certainly one of the most important. Built in 1373 after Cardinal Aegidius Albornoz wrested control of Umbria and Tuscia from Pope Innocent VI, it was meant as a testament to the cardinal's prowess and power. The plans for the original castle were drawn up by Gattapone Gubbio and it was the largest in the area at the time. Only three years after
Friday, June 1st, 2012
Nepi, Borgia castle and Farnese fortification - Photo courtesy of GDelhey/Wikimedia The Borgia Castle is located in Nepi which is in the province of Viterbo in the Latium region. Nepi is located 40 km from Viterbo and close to lake that gets its name from the town. The Borgia castle is a reconstruction of an older feudal manor that dates back to the 15th century. The castle has large walls and four towers, out of which one is open to visitors.   History of the Castle The Borgia castle is
Friday, June 1st, 2012
royal palace caserta
  Reggia di Caserta: the Royal Palace   This stunning architectural complex at Caserta – which includes the Royal Palace, its magnificent gardens, the San Leucio complex, and the Aqueduct of Vanvitelli –  is a true wonder. The large palace, often compared to luxurious buildings like Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid, is  a UNESCO's World Heritage Site.     The Royal Nativity Scene -- Royal Palace, Caserta, Italy.
Friday, June 1st, 2012
Orsini Cesi Castle from Afar - Photo courtesy of orsinicesi.it In the heart of the lush Lucertili Mountains, in the small town of San Polo dei Cavalieri, about 30km from Rome, is the Castello Orsini Cesi Borghese. Centuries ago the castle was built as a strategic defence fortress and today it is a monument to the area's long and rich history. If you are staying in the area or taking a day trip from Rome keep a look out for the castle, which is hard to miss from its perch atop a high
Friday, June 1st, 2012
Palombara Sabina - Aerial View - Photo courtesy of Cyhawk/Wikimedia The Borgo Castello di Castiglione or the castle town of Castiglione is located one km away from the town of Palombara Sabina. The castle is quite magnificent and is known to be one of the best examples of medieval structure. The building of the castle itself dates back to the later half of the 13th century and stands dominating the entire territory due to its location at a high altitude. The construction of the castle was
Friday, June 1st, 2012
castel sant'angelo rome
  Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome Ph. depositphotos/GekaSkr   If you are visiting the ancient city of Rome why not stop to see the Castel Sant'Angelo, the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian? Named for the gorgeous statue of the Archangel Michael on the roof, today the building is the home of the Museo Nazionale de Castel Sant'Angeo. Erected on the shores of the Tiber the structure is located close to the Vatican and was once used as a military fortress.   The Tomb The Castel
Friday, June 1st, 2012
Castel del Monte Ph. depositphoto.com/stefyblue   Castel del Monte is a unique castle built in the 13th century by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, in the Apulia region. When the Emperor had the castle built, he created a symbol which was of much significance, reflected in the layout, shape and the location of the castle. Castel del Monte is located on a small hill close to the Santa Maria del Monte monastery, near the town of Andria.   Castel del Monte is a perfect example
Friday, June 1st, 2012
    Narni - Panorama - Photo courtesy of Croberto68/Wikimedia   The town of Narni is a part of the Umbria region and is located on a stunning limestone cliff overlooking the Black River. Rocca Albornoz is one of the town's most notable landmarks. Built in the 14th century the Rocca Albornoz was originally a military structure meant to protect the territory from invasions and is now used for various exhibitions and for various conferences.    History of the Castle The castle was built in
Friday, June 1st, 2012
Rocca Pia: The Pride of Tivoli Castle of Rocca Pia in the hilltop town of TivoliRocca Pia is an ancient castle located in the historic city of Tivoli. The castle replaced the earlier Callisto II Borgia and derives its name from Pio II Piccolomini, the Humanist Pope who had ordered that the castle be built in Tivoli. Niccolo and Varrone were the two architects entrusted with the construction of the castle. The castle took one year to build and its main purpose was to control the city and to
Friday, June 1st, 2012
Castello Boncompagni is the ducal castle on the beautiful Isola del Liri. The palace is an ancient fortified castle full of history and located close to the island’s old town, where the two branches of the Liri River form the island mass. Two beautiful waterfalls, Valcatoio and the Great Falls, complete the gorgeous picture, which would charm any visitor. The castle has been important to the region ever since it had been built in the 12th century. The beautiful architecture of the castle, as
Friday, June 1st, 2012
  Castello Papi della Magliana - Entrance - Photo courtesy of castellidelazio.com   In the past, when popes wanted to escape the stifling summer heat in Rome, one of their preferred destinations was Castello della Magliana. Located near the Tiber in the old Magliano area outside Rome, the castle is first found in written history when mentioned in an 11th century document as being in the possession of the Santa Cecilia Monastery in Trastevere. The castle's hey day was during the reign of Pope
Friday, June 1st, 2012
Bracciano - Panorama - Photo courtesy of Mac9/Wikimedia The Orsini Odescalchi Castle is located on the shores of the Bracciano lake, around 20 miles from the city of Rome. Common agreement is that this structure is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, due to its elegant mansion and its elegant but effective military architecture. The rooms are beautifully furnished and decorated with a number of valuable paintings and frescoes. Over the centuries, the castle had been home to several
Friday, June 1st, 2012
rocca maggiore assisi
An old postcard of the Rocca Maggiore Ph. flickr/Miss Shari   The historic city of Assisi is dominated by two large medieval castles. The larger castle is known as Rocca Maggiore which is an imposing bastion that looms over the hill town, intimidating potential invaders. The castle as seen today is mainly the work of Cardinal Albornoz, with several later additions by Popes Pius II and Paul III.   Assisi's Rocca Maggiore dominates the entire skyline with its impressive
Friday, June 1st, 2012
Castel Massimo over the town of Arsoli Castello Massimo is located in the town of Arsoli, in the province of Rome. The castle rises from the top of a steep rock outcrop, which partly overlooks Arsoli. The castle's other side overlooks a beautiful park and the castle's formal gardens. There is a tree-lined avenue from the castle gate that leads to the town, wandering through the castle gardens then down to the town square. The Castle A large part of the beautiful piano nobile is available for
Friday, June 1st, 2012
Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena is a small comune located in the Liguria region of Italy in the province of Savona. The village is located close to the cities of Savona and Genoa. The village is spread over an area of 16 sq km and has a small population of only 197. Castelvecchio dates back to the 11th century and it still has an old town that clings to the mountain with its characteristic stone houses. The main highlight of the village is its ancient castle that
Friday, June 1st, 2012
  Gualdo Tadino - Rocca Flea (Flea Fortress) - Photo courtesy of Simonecappellini/Wikimedia Rocca Flea, or the Flea Fortress, is a fortified castle located in the town of Gualdo Tadino in the region of Umbria in central Italy. The castle is located on the upper part of the same hill as the town itself. The castle dates back to the reconstruction of the town in 1237 and is thought to have been built during the Lombard times. In the year 1242 the castle was rebuilt by Frederick II and over
Friday, June 1st, 2012
Rome - Castello di Lunghezza - The Portal - Photo courtesy of castellodilunghezza.it The Castello di Lunghezza is a medieval fortification that is located around twenty kilometers from the city of Rome. The castle is located in the province of Rome and according to various historians, it is located at the site of the ancient city of Colliata.   History of the Castle It is not known exactly when the castle had been built but according to scholars, the oldest manor in the location had been
Friday, June 1st, 2012
  Upper Albisola and Savona as seen from The Castellaro - Photo courtesy of Gancjo/Flickr Il Castellaro is a small castle located on a hill in the cozy town of Albisola Superiore, in the province of Savona in Liguria. The remains of the castle can be found in the area where the Sansobbia and Riobasco Valleys meet, very close to the famous church of San Nicola. The mild climate and charm of Albisola, along with its impressive architecture and ancient ruins like Il Castellaro, make it
Friday, June 1st, 2012
  Nerola - Castello Orsini, Avezzano Earthquake, 1915 - Photo courtesy of Tabularius/Wikimedia   We've all read fairytales where the castle in the story played almost as big a role as the characters themselves. Who hasn't dreamt of being the princess sleeping in a castle's fluffy bed or a prince storming the walls to save his beloved? As you grow older you begin to wonder if such fanciful places even exist. Well, they do, and one of these castles is situated only a few kilometers from Rome,