- Fiat SpA
International holding company and major Italian manufacturer of automobiles, trucks, and industrial vehicles and components.In 1899 Giovanni Agnelli (1866–1945) founded the firm that was incorporated as Fiat in 1906; he led the firm until his death. His grandson Giovanni Agnelli (1921–2003) served as chairman from 1966 until 1996, when his title became honorary. Paulo Fresco was named chairman in 1998. In 1979 the corporation converted to a holding company; in 1986 it acquired the sports-car manufacturer Alfa Romeo SpA. Among its automobile brands are Ferrari and Lancia.
* * *▪ Italian companyformerly Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torinointernational holding company and major Italian manufacturer of automobiles, trucks, and industrial vehicles and components. It is the largest family-owned corporation in Italy. Headquarters are in Turin.Fiat was incorporated in 1906 as the successor to a company formed in 1899 by Giovanni Agnelli (Agnelli, Giovanni). Because of the high level of skilled workers in Turin and the local school of engineering, the company was able to gain an early lead on its competitors.The success of Fiat was in large part the work of two men. Founder Giovanni Agnelli, whose family still holds a major interest in the company, led the firm from its formative years until his death in 1945. An intellectual socialist, he saw the automotive industry as a means of providing transportation to the masses, as well as producing jobs for workers. This odd combination of socialism and industrialism proved to be a potent combination in the Italian automotive industry. By 1910 the firm was the largest in Italy, a position it has maintained since. The other major figure in the firm's development was Vittorio Valletta, an unusually skilled administrator, who as general manager guided the day-to-day activities of the company. By the early 1920s Fiat manufactured more than 80 percent of the automobiles sold in Italy, and the company maintained this near-monopoly of the domestic market in the decades after World War II.In 1979 the corporation converted to a holding company by spinning off a number of autonomous companies covering various separate operations. In 1986 Fiat acquired Alfa Romeo SpA, an ailing Italian company that manufactured sports cars. Today Fiat is a massive, multinational firm with assembly plants and licenses in many European and overseas countries. Among its automotive names are Ferrari, Maserati, and Lancia. The company also has interests in retailing, chemicals, and civil engineering in addition to manufacturing farm equipment, earth-moving machinery, and a vast array of automotive components. Fiat, once the largest auto company in Europe, began to face stiff competition from larger and more global rivals, such as Volkswagen Group ( Volkswagen AG), from the late 1980s. In 2000 the American automobile company General Motors Corporation (GM) acquired a 20 percent stake in Fiat in a technology-sharing deal; in 2005 GM paid $2 billion to terminate the partnership. In January 2009, Fiat and the troubled American auto giant Chrysler LLC announced that Fiat would acquire a 35 percent stake in Chrysler in exchange for fuel-efficiency technology and the reorganization of a Chrysler plant at which one or more Fiat vehicles would be manufactured for sale in the United States. The agreement also included an option for Fiat to increase its stake in Chrysler to as much as 55 percent.
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