The history of Fiat

Sam Bisby

By: Sam Bisby

Almost 116 years ago Fiat was founded and has since built a long history on providing stylish city cars. In 2013, it became the second-largest European manufacturer in terms of cars produced and the seventh largest in the world.

Founded - 1899

Fiat - or Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino - was founded on July 11, 1899 in Turin, Italy by Giovanni Agnelli and a group of businessmen. Giovanni Agnelli paid $400 for his share in Fiat. This share is now worth billions of dollars.

First Fiat factory opens - 1900

Fiat opened its first factory in 1900 in Corso Dante, Turin. Around 150 people were employed to build 24 cars, including the first car it produced known as the Fiat 3/12 CV or Fiat 4 HP, which wasn’t fitted with a reverse gear and could reach speeds of 22mph through its three speed transmission.

Fiat wins race and sets a record - 1902

In 1902, Vincenzo Lancia won the Sassa-Superga uphill race in the Fiat 24 HP. Giovanni Agnelli set a record in the Second Tour of Italy driving the 8 HP and was also appointed the Managing Director of Fiat.

First Fiat truck - 1903

The first Fiat truck called the Fiat 24 HP was created and manufactured in 1903.

Fiat logo released - 1904

Fiat car logo history

Fiat began using the old blue background oval logo on their cars and for their business in 1904. You can also read more about Fiat’s car logo history.

Expansion to America - 1908

Fiat expanded to America where it became a luxury item, as it offered cars for between $3,600 and $8,600 compared to the Ford Model T selling for $825.

First Fiat production plant in America - 1910

New York marks the location of Fiat’s first manufacturing plant in the US.

Electrical accumulators and cardan transmission - 1911

Fiat began to fit cars with electrical accumulators. It also patented the cardan transmission.

Expansion in to other industries - 1918

During WWI, Fiat assisted in the war effort by providing the Allied Forces with weapons, aircrafts and vehicles. The Italian outfit also explored electricity, steel, railways and other public transport, which resulted in Fiat Lubrificanti being founded. Meanwhile, Giovanni Agnelli became the Chairman of Fiat in 1920.

Lingotto factory opened - 1922

Construction began on the Lingotto Fiat factory in 1916 in Turin and the building was opened in 1923. The factory, designed by Giacomo Matté Trucco, was the largest car factory in the world when it was built; it covered five floors that saw raw materials on the ground floor become the final product on the top level, before reaching the test track on the rooftop. Fiat produced 80 models at the factory between 1923 and its final closure in 1982 and appeared as part of the famous rooftop scene in The Italian Job.

Agnelli became CEO - 1925

Giovanni Agnelli became the CEO of Fiat in 1925. This year also saw the Fiat 509 enter production - the first car to feature four seats.

Mirafiori factory - 1937

Fiat began construction of the Mirafiori factory in Turin in 1937. The Mirafiori represented Fiat’s change to mass production cars and resulted in a big increase in the number of cars produced.

Assisting in WWII - 1939

During World War II, Fiat decreased its production of cars and increased its commercial vehicle output to aid the war effort.

Restructure of the company - 1945

In 1945, Giovanni Agnelli died aged 79. Agnelli was active in Fiat business up until a few years before his death. Vittorio Valletta replaced Agnelli as the CEO.

First Fiat Diesel car - 1953

The first Fiat Diesel engine vehicle known as the Fiat 1400 was released.

Gianni Agnelli became CEO - 1966

Giovanni Agnelli’s grandson became CEO of Fiat in 1966.

First European Car of the Year accolade

The Fiat 124 won the company’s inaugural European Car of the Year 1967 and started a long line of Fiat models that went onto mirror the 124’s success. The Fiat 128 won just three years later in 1970, before the 127 took home the award in 1972, the Uno in 1984, the firm’s new Bravo in 1994 and the reimagining of the 500 in 2008.

Fiat buys Lancia and half of Ferrari - 1969

Lancia was having issues making a profit and suffered losses of £20m in 1969. Fiat bought Lancia and half of Ferrari in 1969.

Fiat buys Alfa Romeo - 1986

During the 1960s and 1970s, Alfa Romeo wasn’t making a profit. Alfa Romeo was sold to the Fiat Group in 1986 and was merged with Lancia to become Alfa Lancia Industriale S.p.A.

First Car of the Year award - 1989

As well as enjoying many European Car of the Year triumphs, Fiat has also won the Car of the Year award numerous times, starting in 1989 with the Tipo in 1989, before the Punto in 1995 and then the relaunched Panda in 2004 also took home the accolade.

Fiat 500 launched - 2007      

Fiat 500

Fiat released the compact and stylish Fiat 500 in July 2007, which harked back to the original Fiat 500 produced between 1957 and 1975. Achieving over one million sales in Europe by the end of 2013, the 500 spawned a series including Ferrari and Barbie versions, as well as the soft top Fiat 500C, the family-based Fiat 500L and 500X. Fiat is due to release an all-new Fiat 500 in 2016.

Twin-clutch transmission and TwinAir launched - 2010

In 2010, Fiat launched its twin-clutch transmission and TwinAir technologies. TwinAir is a two-cylinder engine created for ultimate efficiency and used within Fiat vehicles including the Fiat 500 and was awarded the best new engine award in 2011.

Fiat and Chrysler merged - 2014

Fiat and Chrysler merged into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2014. The merger resulted in the company becoming the world’s seventh largest car manufacturer.