Whether it’s simple but stylish small city cars, luxury executive cars or fly supercars, Italy has always been one of the most interesting countries when it comes to the output of their automotive industry. However, while Italy’s best loved marques are still big players both domestically and abroad, the industry itself has changed quite significantly in recent years, and become far more globalised. Here, we take a look at the status of Italy’s major car brands right now, and how the industry fits in the general Italian and EU economy.
One Brand to Rule Them All
When you think of Italian cars, you can probably name several marques. On the mass market end you have Fiat, of course, then moving up the scale you have Alfa Romeo and Lancia, and then at the top end Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini. However, all but one of these – Lamborghini – are actually owned by Fiat. Lamborghini is owned by Audi, who are in turn owned by Volkswagen, though the company is still based in Italy, near Bologna.
Fiat therefore owns all of the biggest Italian brands that still have Italian ownership, and dominates the industry domestically, with around 90% of cars produced in Italy being made by Fiat owned marques since the millennium.
Fiat, up until recently, kept its concerns within Italy, however in 2014 they purchased 100% of American car giant Chrysler – purchasing a non-Italian manufacturer for the first time. As a fun fact, Chrysler owned Lamborghini – the one major Italian brand Fiat haven’t got in their portfolio – up until 1994.
The Recent Resurgence of Fiat in Europe
Italy produced over a million cars in 2015 for the first time since 2008, and the Italian car market seems to be making something of a comeback after a weak few years. A lot of this is attributed by business and investment experts to the popularity of the Fiat 500. A small, yet iconic city car designed to bring some Italian design flair to the same sector of the market as things like the Mini Cooper and Ford Fiesta, this redeveloped version of the classic Fiat 500 has performed well all over Europe. With options including the faster, sportier Abarth version of the 500 winning the hearts of sports car enthusiasts who also value the economy and convenience of a city car, the Fiat 500 has broad appeal, and has reignited interest in the Fiat brand in most of Europe, including the UK. The car has even seen reasonable sales in the USA, where Fiats are not a common site. This may be in part thanks to the fact that a lot of 500s are manufactured in Mexico, rather than Italy itself, however.
Employment and Economy
Fiat’s choice to move some of its manufacturing, both to Mexico and Poland, did raise concerns around employment in Italy, where around a quarter of a million people work in roles related to the car industry. At present, cars contribute about 8.5% of Italy’s GDP, making it a very important industry within the country, and, along with fashion, one of its more high profile export industries. It is worth noting, that while we’ve mainly been focusing on Fiat and their big name marques here, Italy does also have some smaller manufacturers that those with a passion for Italian motoring are fond of, such as Pagani, Zagato, and Pininfarina.