The Italian company Fiat is one of the world's largest car manufacturers. Fiat has been around since 1899 and has seen many changes since its inception. Fiat is commonly known for car production, though the company has also produced trucks, aircraft, trains and military tanks.
Founded by Giovanni Agnelli, the company started manufacturing Fiat cars with its 3 1/2 CV model, a derivative of the Benz at the time. Fiat soon branched out into less explored areas, producing a truck in 1903 and becoming one of the first aircraft engine producers in 1908. By 1910, Fiat was already Italy's largest car manufacturer, a status it has held onto ever since. In the early 1900s, Fiat had the distinction of being a high-class, luxury brand in the United States, where models would often fetch over $8000.
Like many other manufacturing companies, the advent of WWI had a great impact on the company, with production shifted to military engines, vehicles and aircraft for the allies. Following a period of expansion in the inter-war years, the cycle repeated itself, and this time the Fiat production team was employed to produce weapons for the Axis forces.
By the 1960s, new models such as the Fiat 1300 gained a foothold as popular and relatively affordable family cars. Perhaps most famously, the Fiat 124 became extremely popular, particularly throughout Eastern Europe. Versions of this model were licensed by other companies and have a history of being ubiquitous in countries such as India, Spain, Russia and even Korea. Needless to say, sales of Fiat cars climbed to very high levels during this period and vintage secondhand Fiat models are often sought by keen collectors.
Like other European companies, Fiat withdrew from the US due to low sales in the 1980s. Fiat sales in the US have subsequently increased in recent years, following the acquisition of the Maserati brand which re-entered the US market in 2002, a move that is now seen as one of the company's many crowning feats.