16 December 2015

Giovanni Agnelli – entrepreneur

Founder of Fiat had keen eye for a good investment

Giovanni Agnelli, the businessman who founded the Fiat car manufacturing company, died on this day in 1945 in Turin.
Agnelli founded FIAT in 1899
A monument to Giovanni Agnelli in
his home town of Villar Perosa

As soon as Agnelli heard about the idea of a ‘horseless carriage’, he recognised it as a business opportunity and in 1898 met up with an inventor looking for investors for his project.

In 1899 he became part of a group who founded the Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino. Within a year he had become managing director of the company and by 1903 the business was making a small profit.

Giovanni had been born in Villar Perosa, a small town near Pinerolo in Piemonte, in 1866.

He embarked on a military career after finishing his studies but returned to his home town to follow in his father’s footsteps and become Mayor.

Fiat continued to grow and went public before the start of the First World War. After the war the first Fiat car dealership was established in the United States and the company continued to expand internationally.

Although Giovanni Agnelli had many other business interests he remained actively involved with Fiat until his death on 16 December 1945 at the age of 79.

Giovanni’s son Edoardo had become a principal shareholder in Fiat but unexpectedly died in 1935 in an accident involving a sea plane, ten years before his father.

But Edoardo’s son Gianni was the head of Fiat from 1966 until his death in 2003 and made the company the most important in Italy and one of the top European car builders.

Travel tip:

Villar Perosa, where Giovanni Agnelli was born, is a small town about 40 km southwest of Turin. Members of the Agnelli family have lived in a country house there since 1811.
Turin was the headquarters of Fiat, founded by Giovanni Agnelli
Turin, pictured from Monte dei Cappuccini

Travel tip:

Turin is known as the ‘royal’ capital of Italy as it has many palaces and residences built by members of the House of Savoy, the family the Kings of the new united Italy came from. Turin lies in the centre of the region of Piemonte and is now a major industrial and cultural city. 


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