Italian Car Facts

by Rita Kennedy

Italy is famous all over the world for its cars, with makes like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo and Lancia amongst its most desirable vehicles. Italian car manufacturing began in the last years of the 19th century, but today Italian road cars are driven across the world, while the country’s racing cars compete at the highest level.

Origins

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Italian companies entered the field of automobile manufacture later than many of their European competitors. Manufactured in 1896, the Stefanini-Martina is considered to be the first Italian-made car and although the company did not last long, its Turin-based competitor Fabrica Italiana Automobili Torino, better known as Fiat, went on to become one of the largest car companies of the 20th century.

Largest Italian Car Company

Today, Fiat remains the largest car company in Italy, with net revenues for 2009 of over 50 billion euro in the Fiat Automotive Group section of the company. According to the group’s 2009 annual report, the Fiat Automotive Group employed more than 54,000 people that year, who manufactured more than 2 million cars and light commercial vehicles. In 2009, Fiat launched a number of upgrades to some of their most popular existing models, including the Punto Evo--a companion to the Punto Grande--and the 500C cabriolet, which has an electrically controlled soft top. The re-designed Fiat 500 has been a huge global success for the company, and a group of motoring journalists in New York voted it “2009 World Car Design of the Year.”

Ferrari

Although Fiat is a bigger company, Ferrari is probably the world’s best-known Italian car. Founded in 1929 by racing driver Enzo Ferrari, the company’s bright-red cars and prancing-horse badge are famous around the world. Ferrari is the only team to have raced in Formula One since the series began in 1950, and the team drove in its 800th Grand Prix in May, 2010. As of 2010, nine drivers have become Formula One world champions while driving for Ferrari, including Michael Schumacher, Niki Lauda and Alberto Ascari.

Design And Styling

Italian cars are considered by many to be some of the world’s most beautiful cars; this reputation is due to the country’s strong tradition of design. One of the best-known Italian styling companies is Pininfarina, located in Cambiano. Over more than 80 years, Pinifarina has styled hundreds of cars for the likes of Maserati, Ferrari, Ford, Alfa Romeo and Volvo. Company chairman Paolo Pininfarina points to “the central role of design,” and an “aesthetic sensitivity that creates timeless beauty” in ensuring the company’s reputation for beautiful coachwork.

Most Expensive Cars

A survey conducted by Forbes in early 2010 found a number of Italian-made models in the world’s top 10 most expensive cars. Retailing at $1.42 million, the Lamborghini Reventon takes its inspiration from the lines of a fighter jet. Only 20 will be made at the factory in Sant'Agata Bolognese. The Pagani Zonda Cinque Roadster, meanwhile, hits 63 mph in 3.4 seconds, with a top speed of 217 mph. Only five of these cars, retailing at $2 million each, will be built at the company’s factory at San Cesario Sul Panaro.

About the Author

Rita Kennedy is a writer and researcher based in the United Kingdom. She began writing in 2002 and her work has appeared in several academic journals including "Memory Studies," the "Journal of Historical Geography" and the "Local Historian." She holds a Ph.D. in history and an honours degree in geography from the University of Ulster.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera red Italian Car in old roman street image by Ivonne Wierink from Fotolia.com