A Look at FIAT Beginnings

To honor the great cars that FIAT has to offer today, Suburban FIAT USA takes a look at FIAT’s beginnings.

1899 founding

2012 FIAT 500 C

In 1899, Italian entrepreneur Giovanni Agnelli and several other investors founded the Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino, the Italian Automobile Factory of Turin, or F.I.A.T.

The first car built at the factory in Turin was the model FIAT 3 1/2 CV, also known as the FIAT 4 HP. It was designed by Aristide Faccioli based on the Welleyes, a two-seater with a boxer engine that he had designed in 1898 for Ceirano GB & C before Agnelli bought the company.


According to Italy’s National Automobile Museum, the FIAT 4 HP was a three-seat coach with a three-speed gearbox, a chain drive and a rear-mounted, two-cylinder, water-cooled engine.

A bench facing forward held two, and facing it was another small bench that could seat a third person. Its top speed was 35 kilometers per hour. FIAT notes on its website that just 24 units were produced at the plant by 150 workers.


Production of the FIAT 6 HP began in 1900. The FIAT 6 HP Corsa racing model was driven by famed drivers Vincenzo Lancia and Felice Nazzaro. The FIAT 8 HP, which came out the following year, could achieve 45 kilometers per hour

In 1902, Agnelli became managing director of the company, and under Agnelli’s direction, the company grew and diversified. By 1903, commercial vehicles, trucks, taxis, marine engines, taxis and ball bearings were being produced at the factory. In 1908, the FIAT 1 Fiacre was born. FIAT produced around 1,600 of these cars, which had single-block engines. Designed for use as taxis, they were exported and adopted in cities such as London, Paris and New York.

In 1908, the American F.I.A.T. Automobile Company was incorporated, and a factory was built in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 1910. By that time, FIAT had become Italy’s largest automobile manufacturer, going on to introduce the company’s most famous car – the FIAT 500 Topolino – in 1936. This “small car that lives big” made affordable automobiles available to Italians after WWII by the hundreds of thousands.

FIAT today

FIAT began selling its ever-popular FIAT 500 in North America in March 2011. So now that you have learned about FIAT’s beginnings from Suburban FIAT USA, you will want to check out our website and see what FIAT has to offer today.