The Rearview Mirror: The Founding of Fiat


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

For most People, the first time they heard the identify Fiat was when the Italian automaker bought a sizeable stake in Chrysler Corp. after it declared personal bankruptcy in 2009. Not very long after, the Fiat 500 arrived, together with a failed try to turn out to be the future incredibly hot little automobile model a la Mini.

But the enterprise has American roots that day to the convert of the 20th Century — even extended in Italy. Through this 7 days in 1899, Fiat is proven by Giovanni Agnelli.

The start out of a family members empire

Giovanni Agnelli, founder of Fiat

Agnelli was born in Italy’s Villar Perosa in 1866, afterwards attending the Collegio San Giuseppe in Turin. He enlists in the military services just after graduating and functioning as a cavalry officer there right up until 1893, when he learns of a incredibly hot new creation: the “horseless motor vehicle.” 

1 this kind of vehicle is getting created by Ceirano GB & C car firm in Turin. Started in Oct 1888 by Giovanni Battista Ceirano, the enterprise commences developing the Welleyes car in 1899. In the meantime, at the exact same time across town, Agnelli establishes Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, or Italian Car Manufacturing unit of Turin, with a group of buyers. Later, the company shortens its identify to Fiat. 

Agnelli appreciates a excellent factor when he sees it, obtaining the Wellseye’s patents and producing facilities that exact yr. Giovanni joins Agnelli as the Wellseye will become the basis for the company’s initially product: the Fiat 4 HP.

Thirty-five individuals worked in Fiat’s very first manufacturing unit when it originally opened in 1900. Agnelli was the youngest of the 3 founders of the business enterprise, performing as secretary to the board, but in 1902, he is promoted to controlling director. 

Fiat’s American journey

The 1st Fiat manufacturing facility in Turin, Italy.

As a result of Agnelli’s management, Fiat opens a dealership in New York Metropolis in 1906, selling imported Fiats to these kinds of customers such as August Anheuser Busch Sr. of the St. Louis-based mostly brewing organization that bears his title. In contrast to today, the place Fiat is regarded for its diminutive, affordably priced cars like the 500 and 500X crossover, a century back, it was quite the opposite the corporation created massive magnificent touring cars and limousines. 

By 1910, is Italy’s largest automaker.

It is about this time that Agnelli builds the company’s initially international manufacturing website in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Developing an American factory at that time was abnormal for a European company like Fiat. Wall Avenue, which in 1909 supplied funding for the American Fiat Automobile Company, applauds the conclusion. Whilst Agnelli inexplicably mounted diamond service provider Ben Eichberg as American Fiat’s president, other senior officers experienced worked at automakers, which includes Pope-Toldeo, Lozier and Thomas. In addition, due to the fact “The Horseless Age” magazine’s board included Fiat’s treasurer John Treas, fantastic coverage was confirmed. The company’s autos ended up built in Turin and developed in Poughkeepsie, with royalties paid to its Italian relative on every motor vehicle sold.

Fiat’s to start with international manufacturing unit in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

What they marketed

The company’s first product was the four-cylinder, 30-horsepower Form 54. In 1912, the more substantial Sort 56, a seven-passenger Touring auto crafted specially for the American marketplace, was produced. It had a substantial 8.6-liter L-head six-cylinder engine that was mated to an unsynchronized 4-speed manual transmission and rear mechanical drum brakes to develop 45 horsepower. The 42-horsepower four-cylinder Type 55 debuted in 1913, whilst the pursuing 12 months, the 25-horsepower four-cylinder Kind 53 arrived. With four versions provided, 1914 would transform out to be the company’s early superior level.

A turning position

American-crafted Fiats in the company’s manufacturing facility in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Picture Credit score: Simeone Basis Museum

Even so, increased output capability was expected, “something the Italian owners are at present unable, or unwilling to undertake,” documented The Poughkeepsie Every day Eagle at the time, including that Fiat was very thriving and planned to improve following the war. However, the moment Fiat in Italy acquired the American organization in 1917, the Sort 55 turned the only model offered right up until the close of the yr, when manufacturing ended as a end result of Entire world War I.

Several trade publications stated in February 1918 that Duesenberg Motors of Elizabeth, New Jersey acquired the equipment from the Fiat facility to broaden the output of Bugatti aircraft engines. Fiat officers promised to start off making vehicles in Poughkeepsie right up until new devices was established up at the manufacturing unit by the center of 1918, but it by no means took place. The manufacturing facility was shut down.

Ad for an American-developed Fiat

The relaxation of the tale

Fiat used a lot more than 30,000 staff and ran its Turin amenities at comprehensive ability all over Globe War I, delivering ammunition to the Italian armed forces. Despite Italy’s transition to communism, the organization would keep on to extend and inevitably rank among the biggest industrial companies in the environment. Agnelli was in cost up till 1945, when the Italian Committee of National Liberation forced him out of the organization. In 1966, the Agnelli relatives reclaimed ownership of Fiat.

But it was throughout the submit-World War II period that Fiat re-entered the American current market, although numbers have been modest at greatest. The firm did not make a concerted hard work at exporting to the United States till 1957. Whatever gross sales achievements the business enjoyed was dissipating by the late 1970s. In 1986, Fiat withdrew from the American market once all over again.

John Elkann at Ferrari Market Day 2022 close
Chairman John Elkann speaks at the start off of the company’s Cash Industry Day party.

Still the enterprise returned to America in 2009, buying 20% of Chrysler Corp. immediately after Chrysler declared individual bankruptcy in 2009. In two years, Fiat obtained all of Chrysler and became known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, until merging with French automaker PSA Team to grow to be Stellantis in 2021. 

The Agnelli loved ones is even now quite substantially connected with Fiat as a result of John Elkann, Giovanni Agnelli’s terrific-wonderful-grandson. Elkann is chairman and CEO of Exor, the Agnelli family’s keeping corporation, which owns stakes in both Ferrari and Stellantis.


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