- Fiat, the Agnellis and the Italian automotive industry
Founded in Turin in July 1899, Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino has over the decades expanded its field of interest to become one of the most important Italian private financial groups.
During the Fascist period, relations between the Turin company and the regime were very close. But if on the one hand the autarchic policy advocated by Mussolini helped Fiat to expand enormously on the domestic market, on the other hand it almost completely slowed its development abroad. However, if before the Second World War, Fiat was in thirtieth place by capitalization among Italian industries, after the armistice it permanently occupied the third place.
The war left on the ground a heap of rubble and a production that had stopped ten years earlier; but Vittorio Valletta first and Gianni Agnelli later were able to revive the Italian company. Already in 1949, one of the cars that will have greater success in the following years was launched on the market: the 500, a prototype of which had already been presented in 1936, and which together with the slightly larger model, the 600, will become the iconographic representation of the Italian economic boom.
Over the years, many other cars will follow, from the 850, launched in 1964, to the 124, the 126 and then the Regata, the Ritmo, the Panda, the Uno, all cars that will make the Turin company fortune.
Gianni Agnelli was president of the Turin company from 1966 to 1996, the year in which he will leave the leadership to Cesare Romiti, although he will continue to take care of the family business until his death in January 2003. During the 30 years of his leadership, Fiat increased the multinational and multi-sector vocation of the company: the foreseeable close relations with the United States were joined by the openings to the Soviet market in the sixties, and then the 1976 agreement by which Fiat ceded 10% of the shares to Colonel Gaddafi's Libya in exchange for 415 million dollars, fresh money that the Turin-based company greatly needed.
The 2000s mark, thanks to the figure of Sergio Marchionne, the last turning point at FIAT: the acquisition of Chrysler first, and the transformation into FCA, mark the birth of a new story.
The Agnellis, an Italian dynasty
For the average Italian, born and raised in this country in the second half of the last century, the lawyer Agnelli with the soft r pronunciation, impeccable manners and the watch fastened above the cuff is Fiat; and Fiat is Turin with the Mirafiori plants and the blue collars at work; Fiat is the union struggles, the hot autumn and then the march of the 40,000 in 1980, which marked the biggest defeat of the Italian union after a decade of important achievements.
Fiat is also Juventus, the most loved and most hated team on the Italian football scene, the one that wins everything because it has the best champions according to its fans, and the referees always on its side according to its detractors; Fiat are Italian cars, first most of them, and then all of them.
The Agnellis, Fiat and power
Finally, Fiat is power, state aid, the always guaranteed layoffs, the construction of highways that will end up mortifying rail transport in Italy, giving cars and trucks a record unknown anywhere else in Europe.