A Good FIAT History

It caught my eye. A book review in the NYTimes. It was called “Mondo Agnelli”. Immediately it meant it was a book about the FIAT empire or world of the Agnelli family, founders and owners of the auto company that now controls Chrysler. More importantly, it brought back memories of my career with FIAT-Allis in the 1970’s. My several trips to Italy including my first one; 12 facilities throughout Italy that were owned by FIAT. That was shortly after FIAT took control of Allis Chalmers’ construction machinery business and the Springfield, IL operation where I was in a key manufacturing management position. Umberto Agnelli, then CEO, came to tour our facility and used my office to make telephone calls. Yep, no cell phones back then!

So I hopped on my iPad and ordered the e-book and started to get immersed in FIAT history.

Did you know that the founder of FIAT, Giovanni Agnelli, became friends with Henry Ford back in the early days of auto production and modeled his first auto plant after Ford’s?

Back in 1990, Lee Iacocca, then CEO of Chrysler, wrote to Agnelli outlining the benefits of a merger of Chrysler and FIAT. It took until 2008, during the depths of serious trouble in the auto industries around the world, that FIAT took the leap of faith in steeping up and partnered with Chrysler.

In 2004, Sergio Marchionne became CEO of FIAT S.p.A., the auto sector of the FIAT Group, still a family owned business with John Elkann, great-great grandson of founder Giovanni Agnelli as controlling stockholder.

Fabrication Italiana Automobili Torino (FIAT) has a long automobile history being founded in 1889; the first Italian car race was held in 1895 starting in Torino and finishing in Asti. Ford was founded in 1901 with Chrysler founded in 1925. Both companies have long tradition in auto engineering and manufacturing. Today FIAT is more than cars; they also design, manufacturer and sell highway trucks, farm and construction machinery all requiring solid engineering, manufacturing and marketing expertise.

As the partnership of FIAT/Chrysler starts to unfold, the strengths and traditions of both companies will surely result in a World Class Auto dynasty.