Fiat “buys” in the USA, a hundred years of history

Fiat in USA

Fiat looked at the USA since the business foundation in 1902 by Senator Agnelli and in 1909 with the building of a factory.

The acquisition of Chrysler by Fiat, made official in the first days of January, has had wide media coverage, even if with different interpretations.
How much of this acquisition will be positive to the Company, and to those who work in it, to Turin and Italy we will see in the coming years.
We get used to read about Italian factories bought by foreign companies, rather than the contrary, and so we should appreciate the news in itself.

The curious aspect, that not everyone knows, is that in some ways “Fiat in America” is a story began a hundred years ago.
Fiat has aimed for the North America since its foundation, under Senator Agnelli pressure.
Present since 1902 with a business, The Fiat Motor Co. in 1909 started the building of the factory Poughkeepsie (New York) in order to produce Fiat cars for the American market.
In the following years, it worked to the formation of a joint venture with Potter & Johnston, an important American Society manufacturer of machine tools, a hypothesis that included a cash contribution ($ 500,000 at the time) by the Members and a revaluation of Fiat Motors share capital.
The deal didn’t succeed and Fiat gained the entire share capital of the Fiat motor which was used primarily as a purchase agency for equipment and materials needed for the production in Italy.
These were the years of the First World War and, when the United States entered the war, the factory in Poughkeepsie was ceded to Duesenberg that reconverted it to the production of airplane engines.

1922 Duesenberg

Even after the war, Fiat tried the way of a joint venture with an American brand, the Nash.
Nash was an American company with a capital of $25 million, grown thanks to the construction of trucks and heavy vehicles in series especially for the Army and to the start up of a production for the Air Force.

Productive experiences in mobilizing factories and the common motor orders, the size of the company more or less comparable and the Fiat experience gained in the Poughkeepsie factory about the cars production for the American market (the market to which Nash was interested), were all reasons in favor of the agreement which provided for an exchange of equity interests on an equal basis.
Not even this time the operation succeeded, it seems more because Nash second thoughts than Fiat ones, which had already decided to transfer to the U.S. affiliate shares for a quarter of its capital.

Afterwards the American market lost importance for Fiat both from the commercial point of view and from statutory one.
The Nash, on the other hand, had varying fortunes as a manufacturer of cars and The Great Depression in 1920/21 caused to the company losses for $2 million.

The establishment of Poughkeepsie, on the other hand, was acquired, along with all the Duesenberg, by Willys,
Willys, just the name which we’ll find in the history of Jeep!

Two pieces of automotive history that today meet. I believe that Senator Agnelli would be satisfied…

Translated by Federica Izzo

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