Automotive industry in Italy
The automotive industry in Italy is a quite large employer in the country, it covered over 2,131 firms and employed almost 250,000 people in 2006. Italy's automotive industry is best known of its automobile designs and small city cars, sports and supercars. The automotive industry makes a significant contribution of 8.5% to Italian GDP.
Today the Italian automotive industry is almost totally dominated by Fiat Group, in 2001 over 90% of vehicles were produced by it. As well as its own, predominantly mass market model range, Fiat also owns the upmarket Alfa Romeo and Lancia brands as well as the exotic Ferrari and Maserati.
The Italian automotive industry started a little bit later than the 1880s. The Stefanini-Martina of 1896 is thought of as the inaugural vehicle of the industry. However, Enrico Bernardi had built a petrol fueled tri-cycle car in 1884. Fiat SpA was founded in 1899 by Giovanni Agnelli and built its first car in same year, the 3.5HP (or 4HP), with a 679 cc engine. It was capable of 35 km/h (22 mph). Isotta Fraschini was founded in 1900, at first assembling Renault model automobiles.
During the first and the second World Wars and the economic crisis of the 70's, many of these brands disappeared or were bought by FIAT or foreign manufacturers.
Over the years Italian automobile industry has also been involved in numerous enterprises outside Italy, many of which have involved the production of Fiat based models, including Lada in Russia, Zastava and Yugo in the former Yugoslavia, FSO (Polski Fiat) in Poland and SEAT (now part of Volkswagen) in Spain.
In the 1960s and 1970s Italy restored own large auto industry that was 3rd-4th in Europe and 5th-6th in the World. In 1980s Italy overtook the United Kingdom but has conceded to Soviet Union that, like Spain, Poland and Yugoslavia, found large-volume production of cars by Italian FIAT help.
The 1970s and 1980s were a time of great change for the car industry in Europe. Rear-wheel drive, particularly on family cars, gradually gave way to front-wheel drive. The hatchback bodystyle, first seen on the Renault 16 from France in 1965, became the most popular bodystyle on smaller cars by the mid 1980s. Fiat moved into the hatchback market at the small car end in 1971 with the 127 hatchback, followed by the Ritmo family car in 1978. By the end of the decade, the more upmarket Alfa Romeo and Lancia marques had also added hatchbacks to their ranges. The Italian motor industry's flair for innovative design continued in the 1980s, with its Uno supermini (1983) and Tipo family hatchback (1988) both being voted European Car of the Year mostly in recognition of their up-to-date and practical designs. The Uno was one of the most popular cars in Europe throughout its production life, although the Tipo was not so popular outside Italy.
In 1990s Italian auto industry became again 3rd in Europe and 5th in World with annual output near 2 million (with 2,220,774 maximum in 1989). But in the 21st century it has fallen seriously to near 800 thousand per year and 8th place in Europe and 21st place in the World.
But Italy stays as one of the significant player of car design and technology and Fiat has large investments outside Italy including 100% stake in the American automaker Chrysler as of January 2014.
Italian automobile manufacturers include:
- Amilcar Italiana
- Ceirano GB & C
- De Tomaso
- De Vecchi & CMN
- Ufficine Nardi
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- OICA: Production Statistics
- Ward's: World Motor Vehicle Data 2007. Wards Communications, Southfield MI 2007, ISBN 0910589534
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