Founded by an investment group headed by Giovanni Agnelli in 1899, the Italian Automobile Factory of Turin (Fabricca Italiania Auttomobili Torino) more generally known as Fiat, very quickly became the largest automobile manufacturer in Italy. This happened in 1910. Fiat has been the dominant Italian auto manufacturer ever since.
In the United States, Fiat was originally known for producing small, quirky, fun to drive cars with good fuel economy—if not exactly stellar reliability. The Fiat 1500 was quite popular in mid 1960s. Fiat’s rear engined 850 models sold pretty well here in the early 1970s, which included an open two-seat sports car. The Fiat 124 sports car was the most notable Fiat model offered here in terms of sales—examples of which can still be seen running around today.
Fiat ultimately became the equivalent of GM in Italy, with a broad portfolio of brands under its umbrella. Today, Fiat owns or controls every major Italian automaker, save Lamborghini. These include Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lancia, Maserati, and of course, the Fiat brand.
After retreating from the U.S. market in 1984, Fiat has returned once again, this time as the owner of Chrysler.
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