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Fiat Group (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino), or Fiat S.p.A., best known for Fiat cars, is an Italian automobile manufacturer, engine manufacturer, financial and industrial group based in Turin, Northern Italy. Founded in 1899 by a group of investors including Giovanni Agnelli, the company name is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Italian Car Factory of Turin), and it also means "let there be" in Latin. Fiat was also an aircraft manufacturer at one time.

Fiat cars are constructed all around the world; in Italy, Poland, Brazil and Argentina. Joint Venture productions in France, Turkey, Egypt South Africa, India and China.

Agnelli's grandson Gianni Agnelli was Fiat chairman from 1966 until his death on January 24, 2003. However, from 1996, he only served as an "honorary" chairman, while the chairman was Romiti. After their removal, Paolo Fresco served as chairman and Paolo Cantarella as CEO. Umberto Agnelli then took over as chairman from 2002 to 2004. After Umberto Agnelli's death on May 28, 2004, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo was named chairman, but Agnelli heir John Elkann became vice chairman at age 28 and other family members are on the board. At this point, CEO Giuseppe Morchio immediately offered his resignation. Sergio Marchionne was named to replace him on June 1, 2004.

Activities

The group's activities were initially focused on the industrial production of cars, industrial and agricultural vehicles. Over time it has diversified into many other fields, and the group now has activities in a wide range of sectors in industry and financial services. It is Italy's largest industrial concern. It also has significant worldwide operations, operating in 61 countries with 1,063 companies that employ over 223,000 people, 111,000 of whom are outside Italy.

Automobiles

Fiat is the largest automobile manufacturer in Italy, with a range of cars including the Fiat Panda, Punto, Stilo, Idea, Croma, Ulysse and Doblò. Car companies are run by Fiat Auto and Ferrari. Today Fiat Auto runs well known firms like Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Autobianchi, Innocenti, Abarth, Fiat, and Maserati. Ferrari is owned by the Fiat Group, but is run autonomously. Light automobile sales accounted for 46.8% of total revenues during fiscal 2004 (3.2% of which is from Ferrari).

The European Car of the Year award, Europe's premier automotive trophy for the past 40 years, has been awarded twelve times to the Fiat Group, more than any other manufacturer.

History

Giovanni Agnelli founded Fiat in 1899 with several investors and led the company until his death in 1945, while Vittorio Valletta administered the day-to-day activities of the company. In 1903, Fiat produced its first truck. In 1908, the first Fiat was exported to the US. That same year, the first Fiat aircraft engine was produced. Also around the same time, Fiat taxis became somewhat popular in Europe. By 1910, Fiat was the largest automotive company in Italy — a position it has retained since. That same year, a plant licensed to produce Fiats in Poughkeepsie, NY, made its first car. This was before the introduction of Ford's assembly line in 1913. Owning a Fiat at that time was a sign of distinction. A Fiat sold in the US cost between $3,600 and $8,600 ($73,909 to $176,561 today). Compare this to the $825 ($17,000 today) Henry Ford charged for his first Model Ts in 1908. However, upon the entry of the US into World War I in 1917, the factory was shut down as US regulations became too burdensome. At the same time, Fiat had to devote all of its factories to supplying the Allies, producing aircraft, engines, machine guns, trucks, and ambulances. After the war, Fiat introduced its first tractor. By the early 1920s, Fiat had a market share in Italy of 80%. In 1921, workers seized Fiat's plants and hoisted the red flag of communism over them. Mr. Agnelli responded by quitting the company, retiring to private life, and letting the workers try to run the company. Shortly afterward, 3,000 of them walked to his office and asked him to return to the helm — -a request to which he reluctantly agreed. In 1922, Fiat began to build the famous Lingotto car factory — the largest in Europe up to that time — which opened in 1923. It was the first Fiat factory to use assembly lines. Fiat made military machinery and vehicles during World War II for the Italian Army and Air Force. Fiat made fighter aircraft, which was one of the most common Italian aircraft used along with the Savoia-Marchetti, and also made light tanks and armored vehicles. These were weak compared to some of the German and Soviet counterparts, but were still used often. In 1945 — the year Hitler's ally Mussolini was overthrown as leader of Italy - the Italian Committee of National Liberation removed the Agnelli family from leadership roles in Fiat because of its ties to Mussolini's government. These were not returned until 1963, when Giovanni's grandson, Gianni took over as general manager until 1966 and as chairman until 1996.

Gianni Agnelli

Among Gianni's first steps after he gained control of Fiat was a massive reorganization of the company management, which had previously been highly centralized, with almost no provision for the delegation of authority and decision-making power. Such a system had worked effectively enough in the past but lacked the responsiveness and flexibility made necessary by Fiat's steady expansion and the growth of its international operations in the 1960's. The company was reorganized on a product-line basis, with two main product groups — one for passenger cars, the other for trucks and tractors — and a number of semi-independent division and subsidiaries. Top management, freed from responsibility for day-by-day operations of the company, was able to devote its efforts to more far-reaching goals. In 1967, FIAT made its first acquisition when it purchased Autobianchi. Then, in 1969, it purchased controlling interests in Ferrari and Lancia. According to Newsweek in 1968, FIAT was "the most dynamic automaker in Europe . . . [and] may come closest to challenging the worldwide supremacy of Detroit." In 1967 Fiat, with sales amounting to $1.7 billion, outstripped Volkswagen, its main European competitor; in 1968 Fiat produced some 1,750,000 vehicles while its sales volume climbed to $2.1 billion ($11.5 billion today). At the time, Fiat was a conglomerate, owning Alitalia Airlines, toll highways, typewriter and office machine manufacturer, electronics and electrical equipment firms, a paint company, a civil engineering firm, and an international construction company. That same year, Fiat acquired Citroën — one of France's three major automakers at the time. However, in 1976, it sold the company. Following up on an agreement that Valetta had made with Soviet officials in 1966, Agnelli constructed a Fiat plant in the new city of Togliattigrad on the Volga that went into operation in 1970. On his initiative, Fiat automobile and truck plants were also constructed in industrial centers of Yugoslavia, Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania. In 1979, the company became a holding company when it spun off its various businesses into autonomous companies, one of them being Fiat Auto. That same year, sales reached an all-time high in the United States, corresponding to the Iranian Oil Crisis. However, when gas prices fell again after 1981, Americans began purchasing sport utility vehicles, minivans and pickup trucks in larger numbers (marking a departure from their past preference for large cars). Also, Japanese automakers had been taking an ever-larger share of the car market, increasing at more than half a percent a year. Thus, in 1984, Fiat and Lancia withdrew from the American market. In 1989, it did the same in the Australian market.

In 1986, Fiat acquired Alfa Romeo from the Italian government. In 1992, two top corporate officials in the Fiat Group were arrested for political corruption. A year later, Fiat acquired Maserati. In 1995 Alfa Romeo exited the US market. Maserati re-entered the US market under Fiat in 2002. Since then, Maserati sales there have been increasing briskly.

Paolo Fresco

Paolo Fresco became chairman of Fiat in 1998 with the hope that the veteran of General Electric would bring more emphasis on shareholder value to Fiat. By the time he took power, Fiat's market share in Italy had fallen to 41% from around 62% in 1984. However, a John Welch-like management style would be much harsher than that used by the Italians (e.g., precarious versus lifetime employment). Instead, Fresco focused on offering more incentives for good performance, including compensation using stock options for top and middle management.

However,his efforts were frustrated by union objections. Unions insisted that pay raises be set by length of tenure, rather than performance. Another conflict was over his preference for informality (the founder, Giovanni Agnelli, used to be a cavalry officer). He often referred to other managers by their first name, although company tradition obliged one to refer to others using their titles (e.g., "Chairman Fresco"). The CEO of the company, Managing Director Paolo Cantarella, ran the day-to-day affairs of the company, while Fresco determined company strategy and especially acted as a negotiator for the company. In fact, many speculated the main reason he was chosen for the job was to sell Fiat Auto (although Fresco fervently denied it). In 1999, Fiat formed CNH Global by merging New Holland NV and Case Corporation.

Gallery

Cars manufactured by Fiat:

Subcategories

This category has only the following subcategory.

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