On this day, August 13 in the year 1866, one of the pioneers in the automotive industry was born in a small town in Northern Italy. His name was Giovanni Agnelli, one of the founders of Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino), the largest car manufacturer in Italy and one of the largest in the world.
Giovanni Agnelli was the son of the mayor of Villar Perosa, Italy. He studied at the Collegio San Giuseppe in Turin. After graduation, he joined the military but quit in 1892. In 1895, he became mayor of Villar Perosa, following in the footstep of his father. In 1899, along with 3 other investors, he founded Fiat and the following year, the first factory was opened with 35 employees. On its first year, 24 cars were produced.
In 1902, Giovanni Agnelli was appointed managing director of Fiat. He was promoted to the position of chairman in 1920. Under his leadership, Fiat became a publicly listed company in 1903 which allowed the company to acquire more capital for expansion. Export of cars began in 1906. That same year, the company expanded to include production of buses, trucks, and marine engines. In 1908, the company started producing of aircraft.
In the succeeding years, Giovanni became the controlling shareholder of Fiat. He invested in manufacturing plants in the United States. He also got involved in banking and finance. During both world wars, the company’s factories were used to produce armaments for the Italian military.
Giovanni Agnelli had two children. His grandson Gianni took over the management of the company in 1966.