Giovanni Agnelli (Giovanni Agnelli)

Giovanni Agnelli

Industrialist. He was the founder of the Fiat automobile company. Born in Villar Perosa, a small town near Pinerolo, Italy, his father, the mayor of Villar Perosa, died at age 40, when Giovanni was just five. He studied at the Collegio San Giuseppe in Turin; then embarked on a military career until 1893 when he returned to Villar Perosa, where he followed in his father’s footsteps and became mayor in 1895 (a position he held until his death). He heard about the invention of the (then) new horseless carriage and immediately saw an opportunity for using his engineering and entrepreneurial skills. In 1898, he met Count Emanuele Bricherasio di Cacherano of Turin, who was looking for investors for his horseless carriage project; Agnelli sensed the opportunity. On July 1, 1899 he was part of the group of founding members of the Fabbrica Italiana di Automobili Torino (Italian Automobile Factory of Turin), which became known by the acronym “F.I.A.T.” One year later he was the managing director of the new company and became the chairman in 1920. The first Fiat plant opened in 1900 with 35 staff, and made 24 cars. Known from the beginning for the talent and creativity of its engineering staff, by 1903 Fiat made a small profit and produced 135 cars; by 1906 it grew to 1,149 cars. The company then went public selling shares via the Milan stock exchange. Agnelli began purchasing all the shares he could adding to his holding, overcoming scandals and labor problems. After World War I the company jumped from 30th to third place among Italian industrial companies. The first Ford factory was opened 4 years after Fiat was founded and Agnelli visited several times and adopted various practices he observed. He was appointed a Senator in 1923, and filled several other prestigious positions between the two wars. However he remained focused and propelled Fiat to the international arena. He was still active with Fiat at the start of the Second World War, but died soon after it ended in 1945 at age 79. (bio by: Fred Beisser)


  • August, 13, 1866
  • Italy


  • December, 12, 1945
  • Italy


  • Cimitero di Villar Perosa
  • Piemonte
  • Italy

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