• July 24, 2013

Fiat: An Italian Car Company’s Beginnings

fiatFiat, a Turin, Italy based automaker, can trace its founding by interested investors back more than a century to 1899. In addition to passenger vehicles, the company has also manufactured military vehicles, railway carriages and engines, aircraft and farm tractors. As of 2011, Fiat was Europe’s fourth largest automobile manufacturer, behind only Renault, PSA and the Volkswagen Group. In global statistics, the company ranks eleventh in automobile production.

History of Acquisitions

Throughout the years, Fiat has enjoyed acquiring companies that has enabled it to offer a wider variety of options for auto buyers around the world. In 1968, the company acquired Lancia, an automaker also based in Italy. 1969 saw Fiat become a shareholder in the luxury car manufacturer, Ferrari. In 1986, the company took over control of Alfa Romeo, which had been under the auspices of the Italian government up until that point. Fiat purchased Maserati during the 1993 fiscal year while 2011 saw the company acquire enough shares in Chrysler so that it became a major shareholder.

Worldwide Production of Fiat Cars

Though based in Turin, Italy, Fiat cars are built in manufacturing plants across the world. The country with the largest production of these vehicles, outside of Italy, is Brazil. Fiat enjoys market leader status in that country. Other factories are also located in Poland and Argentina. Joint ventures and alliances across the globe allow Fiat to establish its presence far from Italy. Outside of its home country, the major partnerships are located in France, India, Serbia, China and Turkey. Fiat USA dealerships like Arrigo Fiat of West Palm have helped bolster the brand.

A Decade of Firsts

The company’s first automobile was released in 1899. It was the 3 ½ CV which boasted a boxer twin engine that measured 697 cc. Only 24 copies of this inaugural vehicle were built. By 1903, the company had rolled its first truck out the door and, in 1908, the United States saw the importation of the first Fiat vehicle.

Bringing the Elite to the United States

In 1910, Fiat built a new manufacturing plant in Poughkeepsie, New York. It was the site of the first Fiat plant in the United States. When compared to other automobiles, such as the Model T, released by Ford, Fiat vehicles were deemed to be transportation for the elite. Upon its initial release in the country, its price was set at $4,000. A Ford Model T cost $825. By 1918, the price for a Fiat rose to $6,400 with a Model T’s base price at about $525.

World War One’s Effect

Due to the outbreak of World War One on European soil, Fiat’s priorities changed. It moved from producing automobiles to producing supplies for the Allies. These included machine guns, ambulances, trucks, engines and aircraft, many of which the company already had experience with manufacturing.

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