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Fiat anniversary: 118 years of motoring history

From its origins to the MoMA in New York

The origins of the famous Italian brand in Turin in 1899. The first successes. The models that made history around the world.


The car industry is full of history and tradition, success and innovation. But how many automakers in the world today can celebrate over a century of challenges and insights and boast a vast technological and cultural heritage? 

Fiat, for example, which recently celebrated its 118th anniversary.

Fiat was established on 11 July 1899 under its full name Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino. Heading the group of entrepreneurs who co-founded the company was Senator Giovanni Agnelli, the progenitor of the family that still owns the brand.

The 3½ HP was the first model to emerge from the workshops on Corso Dante in Turin. In total, 24 units were produced by the 150 workers in the automotive plant in Turin, which was the only factory making cars in Italy at that time. 

The enthusiasm and desire to surprise that spawned the 3½ HP also fuelled the growth of a company that has remained at the forefront due to its design know-how and avant-garde style.

The production of industrial vehicles and marine engines began in 1903. 1925 saw the release of the 509, which had an engine capacity of under one litre. In 1936 came the 500 "Topolino", the first mass-produced utility vehicle. The flagship Mirafiori plant was built in Turin in 1939.

In 1950 Fiat launched the 1400, the first saloon with a load-bearing body, and the following year produced the first Italian jet aircraft, the Fiat G80. 1965 was the year of the revolutionary 600. This was the model that got the whole country moving, becoming a symbol of Italy’s economic boom. 

Fiat continued producing cars that soon become benchmarks for fans around the world, including the X1/9, the Panda, the Uno, the Croma and the Punto, to name just a few.

Between the 1970s and 1980s, the Fiat Group (with Iveco and CNH) started a process of internationalisation during which it established bases in Brazil, Argentina, Poland, Turkey, India, China and Russia. The management team that steered the firm through the most critical phase of this process consisted of chairman Paolo Fresco, honorary chairman Gianni Agnelli and managing director Paolo Cantarella.  

Accompanying the history of the models is the history of the men who conceived, designed and built them; design engineers such as Vittorio Jano (804 and 805/405) and Dante Giacosa (500, 1100, 600 and 124); designers such as Giorgetto Giugiaro (Panda, Uno, Punto) and Roberto Giolito (Multipla, 500); as well as their close-knit teams and the assembly line workers.

And of course, the members of the Agnelli family who continue to maintain the strong bond between the company and the city of Turin, which has always been the home of Fiat. 

The FCA Heritage department was created to preserve and celebrate the vast legacy of ideas and innovations that Fiat has created through its history, describing the models, story and protagonists of the Italian brands of FCA Italy SpA, which today is proudly celebrating the 118th anniversary of founding company Fiat.


In the very same period, on 4 July, another important anniversary is being celebrated: that of the Fiat 500, which is 60 this year.

A model that has innovated and transformed into an icon of Italian design excellence, recently becoming part of the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (read the article for details).

Today, FIAT is a brand that has gained important global recognition. It operates over 100 production plants around the world and has developed a sales network of dealers and distributors in over 140 countries, which is behind sustained sales increases. This international appeal is also confirmed by the tremendous commercial success achieved by the 500 in the United States, where 175,000 units have been sold since 2011. Worldwide sales of the city car have now reached two million units and the 2,000,000th vehicle was recently sold in Germany, another indication of the brand's international appeal.

These numbers once again demonstrate how Fiat's technical and aesthetic intuition have enabled the firm to conquer the world.

Because the story that began 118 years ago in Turin, Italy, is a great international success story that is destined to run and run, preserving the past to gain a better insight into the future.

Keep up to date with all the news, events and insights from the Heritage universe.