Italy celebrates Fiat's first 100 years

WHEN THE leading lights of Italian industry and politics gather in Turin this weekend to celebrate the 100th birthday of the car maker Fiat, it will be more than just a ritual celebration of the success of Italy's biggest private company.

The Agnelli family, who founded and still control the firm, are people with whom Italians love to identify - wealthy but not pretentious, jet-setting but not vulgar, and very, very rich. The fact that Fiat owns such national treasures as Ferrari and Juventus merely adds to the family's popularity.

Fiat is both a symbol of Italian design and success abroad, and a pillar of the national economy. The company first started turning out motor vehicles from its plant in Turin 38 years after the birth of the Italian state and the fortunes of the two have been entwined ever since. The Prime Minister, Massimo D'Alema, and the recently elected President, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, will be among the 3,000 guests at a gala banquet tomorrow night at Fiat's headquarters, the Lingotto building.

The first Fiat plant opened with 35 workers but it was a visit the firm's founder, Giovanni Agnelli, paid to Ford's Detroit works in 1912 that inspired the decision to introduce mass production to Italy. The head of Fiat today is Giovanni's grandson, 78-year-old Gianni Agnelli.

Like many of Italy's most successful companies Fiat remains solidly under family control; Gianni Agnelli's designated successor as company head was his handsome and charming nephew Giovannino. However, he died of stomach cancer last year at the age of 33.

Fiat's influence on national politics is immense. Despite or maybe because of its political muscle Fiat emerged more-or-less unscathed from the clean- hands anti-corruption inquiry that wiped out many of Italy's political and business leaders in the early Nineties.

Even more symbiotic, though, is the relationship between the automotive empire and the city of Turin.

The veteran journalist Giorgio Bocca, writing in La Repubblica recently, recalled. "For decades Fiat has been the real administrator of the city and the guide of the Piedmont region; the town council fitted around its working day, the public services followed the factory shifts, mayors and police chiefs all obeyed the telephone calls from Corso Marconi. It was hard to tell where servility finished and civic and company patriotism started."

Bocca noted that Fiat - like Italy - had changed more in the past decade than in the previous nine. Its employees, greatly reduced by the introduction of new technology, are no longer the champions of the Italian working class. Only about half of Fiat's output comes from Turin, the remainder from 13 plants around the globe.

The centenary celebrations come as a welcome diversion from concerns over Fiat's future. The anomaly of Fiat is that as an automobile empire it is too big to be gobbled up by a rival yet not big enough to take over another of its competitors. With increasing moves towards concentration of ownership in the car industry, Fiat's future may depend on the dilution of the family shareholding that has characterised its first century of success.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living