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Still in the 19th century, in 1899, Fiat was founded with a total of nine shareholders in the Italian city Turin. The name - an acronym - stands for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, which simply means Italian automobile factory Turin.
The production of automobiles started straight away. The first model of the company was the small car, the Fiat 3.5 HP, of which a total of 24 were built. This model had successors, like the 6/8 HP in the following year, the 8 HP in 1901 as well as the 12 HP in the year 1903, which was produced nearly seven times more and initiated the successful export to England, the USA and France.
With the takeover of the plants of Ansaldi in 1905 and the associated establishment of the Brevetti-Fiat organisation, the development of models could be further advanced.
With the identically named Fiat Landaulet Brevetti even larger numbers could be achieved.
Automobile racing was extremely popular in the USA at that time, which made the equally successful exporter Fiat participate in the Grand Prix of America in 1911. The engagement of the innovative model S74 meant a comprehensive victory for Fiat.
The company had been present already since 1909, at least since the opening of the factory in the state of New York.
In 1912 the first Fiat, the Fiat Zero was produced as standard. The successor models, such as the Fiat S 57/14 or the Fiat 501, were responsible for other major successes in racing such as at the Grand Prix of France.
In Europe, the First World War and the adjustment of the production to military trucks, aircraft, machine guns, ambulances and engines for submarines led to Fiat's growth, even if the enterprise did not remove regular cars from the production line.
The greatest success in racing was achieved with the legendary Fiat Mefistofele from 1908, in which Ernest Eldridge in 1924 broke the then land speed record at 234.98 km/h in a tuned model, before the company withdrew from racing one year later.
During the war, the largest of Europe's factories was built in Lingotto and became a landmark of Turin. After the troubles following the war, as well as strikes, the machines almost stood still until 1923, until finally the new models 501, 505, 510, 519 and in 1925 the four-seater 509 were presented to the public.
The transition to mass production should also include actual improvements in the living standard, therefore Fiat wanted to establish social and health care facilities for the employees. The production boom reached its peak in 1932: over 20 000 cars were produced and the considerable number of over 6500 were exported.
After the decline in passenger car production in the course of the war the workshops were rebuilt and started to operate very soon in 1945. The first growth was already recorded in 1948. The Fiat 144 of 1948 was new in every aspect - in terms of both design and mechanics. More and more models were developed and turned Fiat into an internationally competitive brand.
Additionally the company entered the licensing business, its models were manufactured and built by Simca in France, by NSU-Fiat in Germany and Poland and since the 1950s, also by the Spanish Seat.
The much-respected Fiat 124, car of the year 1967, for example, was adapted and adopted for the respective country markets and brands: in the late 1960s by Tohaş in Turkey, by Lada in the Soviet Union, and as a Seat in Spain. Since 1966 also Ferrari has belonged to the Fiat Group – a tie that remained until 2016. In 1969 Fiat also bought the automobile manufacturer Lancia.
In terms of product selection and market presence, Fiat was the largest European automotive group in the 1970s. Further takeovers can be understood as part of the expansive behaviour - so Fiat bought Alfa Romeo in 1986. With Peugeot there had been a cooperation since the end of the 1970s regarding individual jointly developed models. As a brand quartet Lancia, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Saab were active in a joint venture called Tipo 4, in which all the models of those involved were renewed through a process of mutual exchange of technology and design: the Saab 9000, the Lancia Thema, the Fiat Croma and the Ferrari 308 Quattro.
Fiat seemed to be on the road to success, but the growing competition in individual country markets was a challenge. For this reason, the group started a modernization of its products. This indeed resulted in successful models such as the Panda, Tipo and Uno in the 1980s. Fiat was also in 1987 the first automobile manufacturer which brought out the mid-range Croma diesel direct injection engine for passenger cars. Another standard was set with the Marea and its diesel fuel injection system.
Until today Fiat has been a leader in diversity, ranging from the 500 and the Panda in the area of small cars, to various sizes of the Punto (the Small Punto III to the Grande Punto) and the Tipo in the middle class to the SUV and Minivan 500X or 500L and the Van Freemont. In particular, the 124 Spider had been introduced in a new edition since 2016, the sportiness of the car being the main selling point, while the model is actually based on the Mazda MX 5.