Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Italian Automobile Factory of Turin), is an Italian vehicle and engine manufacturer, financial, and industrial group based in Turin in the Italian region of Piedmont. Fiat was founded in 1899 by Giovanni Agnelli and a consortium of investors. Agnelli headed the organisation until his death in 1945. Their first venture was a small car of which only eight models were made. In 1908 FIAT produced its first truck. It was exported to America. Fiat made many small automobiles and these found devour in the taxi cab industry. By 1910 Fiat was the biggest automobile manufacturer in Italy, a position it still hold to this day.
During its more than century long history Fiat has manufactured everything from cars and trucks to railway engines and carriages, military vehicles, and aircraft. In 1910 Fiat produced its first car in New York but this plant was closed down with the onset of WWI. Other Fiat factories worked supplying the Allied Forces with aircraft engines, machine guns, trucks and ambulances. Fiats first freight truck had been produced in 1914 although the company had built its first truck chassis back in 1903. At wars end civilian production resumed including Fiats first tractor, the 702. By the early 1920s Fiat had secured 80% of the Italian market and was ready for the world. In 1921 Fiat management was caught by surprise when their workers seized Fiat's factories hoisting the red flag of communism. Giovanni Agnelli was horrified and responded by quitting the company. The Italian Socialist Party ordered the occupation ended. A year later Fiat began construction on their famous Lingotto car factory which opened in 1923. It was the first Fiat factory to use assembly lines for its production. By 1925, Fiat held 87% of the Italian car market. After the advancements in technology resulting from WW1 and leading up to the imminent Second World War the 1930s saw considerable development in the commercial vehicle industry. The aviation and railway sectors also grew at this time and Fiat was .grew with them.
During WWII Fiat was again called upon. Their factories made military machinery and vehicles for the Army and Regia Aeronautica later for the Germans. Fiat made obsolete fighter aircraft like the biplane CR.42 and the G.55 fighter, which arrived too late and in too limited numbers. In 1945, just as the war ended the Agnelli Agnelli family were ousted from Fiat because of its ties to Mussolini's government. They were not permitted to returned to their family business until 1963 when Giovanni's grandson, Gianni, took over as general manager until 1966. He became chairman thirty years later in 1996. During the Agnelli’s time away from the business Fiat continued to grow. It launched its first diesel engine vehicle, the Fiat 1400 in 1953.
Under Gianni Agnelli's control of Fiat underwent massive restructuring of needed for Fiat's steady expansion and the growth of its international operations in the 1960s. The new structure saw Fiat establish two main divisions; one for passenger cars and the other for trucks and tractors. In 1967 Fiat acquired Autobianchi and with sales amounting to $1.7 billion easily outstripped Volkswagen, its main European competitor. In 1968 Fiat produced 1,750,000 vehicles netting $2.1 billion in Sales. Newsweek reported, Fiat as "the most dynamic automaker in Europe." A year later Fiat purchased controlling interests in Ferrari and Lancia. At the time Fiat also owned Alitalia, toll highways, a typewriter and office machine manufacturer, electronics and electrical equipment firms, a paint company, a civil engineering firm, and an international construction company. Fiat automobile and truck plants were soon constructed in USSR, Yugoslavia, Poland, Bulgaria, Libya and Romania. The Fiat car range, while popular the world over, never managed to get the same foothold in Australia as it did in other countrys. This was partly due to changes in the Australian vehicle import quota. The last new Fiat car was sold in Australia in 1989. The Fiat commercial range has had a bit more success with many farmers, market gardeners and small businesses purchasing Fiat trucks over the years. One of the issues with Fiat is that although the vehicles themselves were of superior engineering and quality Australian bush roads were not of the same standard and high performance was not a requirement for Australian operators.
In 1999, Fiat acquired Pico (American bodyworks systems) and Renault Automation and Sciaky, strengthening its position as a major supplier. New branches were established in Australia, China, Romania, and Germany. Fiat today employs approximately 600 people in its Iveco Truck division which became a fully owned subsidiary in 1992.
Despite offering a relatively competitive range of cars Fiat succumbed to financial pressures during the 1973 oil price shock. In 1976 the Libyan government took 9.6% share holding in the company in return for a capital injection worth an equivalent of $500million. The Libyan agreement included construction of a truck and bus plant at Tripoli. Robogate, am automated assembly line was added to Fiat factories in 1978 and in 1979Fiat set itself up as a holding company and 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 US. When gas prices fell after 1981, Americans began purchasing sport utility vehicles, minivans, and pickup trucks in larger numbers and small Japanese cars were making inroads into what was traditional fiat markets. Fiat acquired Alfa Romeo from the Italian government in 1986. At the time 15% of Fiat was still owned by Libya, under President Reagan's administration Fiat was pressured into brokering a buyout of the Libyan investment. In 1993 year Fiat acquired Maserati. Alfa Romeo exited the US market soon after and Maserati re-entered the US market under Fiat in