Italian automobile industry has a long and glorious history, full of engineering innovations, great designs and motorsport victories. Manufacturers from Italy are best known for producing mass market compact models as well as luxurious sport cars. For many years Italian cars have been considered the benchmark in automotive engineering and design, with the FIAT models replicated by companies in the Soviet Union, Spain, Turkey and other countries, while such brands as Ferrari, Lamborghini or Alfa Romeo have set standards in supercar and racing car segments. Here is the list of active Italian car manufacturers.
Major Italian car companies and manufacturers
Italian car industry has seen some of the most influential brands in automotive world reach success and go through bankruptcy. Nowadays most of the major car companies in the country are united under Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ownership and aspire for new heights in the business.
FIAT, short for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili di Torino, is the largest Italian car manufacturer and one of the oldest brands in the industry, founded in 1899. The company has enjoyed success in compact class with Europe being the main market throughout the history. From 1908 the Italian manufacturer ran a plant in the United States and sold its vehicles in North America, but was forced to leave the continent in 1983 due to decreased reputation and, consequently, sales numbers.
FIAT used to be considered a benchmark in engineering and car design and its models inspired several manufacturers in the Soviet Union, Europe, South America and Asia for replica vehicles. Having merged with Chrysler, the brand is now owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and its vehicles are marketed in the United States under both FIAT (supermini 500) and Ram trademarks. The company has also expanded its business to developing countries, such as Brazil or China and sells over 2 million vehicles per year worldwide.
Alfa Romeo is a legendary Italian manufacturer of sports and family cars. Founded in 1910 by Alexandre Darracq and Nicola Romeo, the company was destined to participate in motor racing. Ever since Alfa Romeo has won numerous titles in various races, including Mille Miglia, Formula One, 24 Hours of Le Mans, European Touring Car Championships and many more. The company also produced aircraft engines, trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles.
Today Alfa Romeo is owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and its vehicles continue the company’s tradition to create stylish cars for passionate customers. Its lineup consists of four models, supermini MiTo, hatchback Giulietta, sports car 4C and the recently launched sedan Giulia, which is set to boost the brand’s sales, including in the North American market.
Lancia is another honored Italian car manufacturer, subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Founded in 1906 by two Fiat racing drivers, Lancia earned reputation for introducing engineering innovations, classy designs and success in motorsports. The company takes pride in developing V-engines, independent suspension, presenting the first 5-speed gearbox and other contributions to the automotive industry.
Lancia used to produce commercial vehicles, such as trucks, buses and trolleybuses, military vehicles. It is also renowned for glorious years in racing, particularly rally. Such models as Fulvia, Stratos, 037 and unbelievable Delta Integrale have made Lancia the most successful rallying manufacturer in history. However, the company has struggled to adapt to modern business and its lineup has been reduced to just two models, supermini Ypsilon and a rebadged Chrysler-Dodge MPV named Voyager. Italy is set to remain Lancia’s only market in the nearest future.
Maserati is a renowned Italian manfacturer of luxurious executive cars featuring lavish interiors and potent powertrains. Their vehicles are easily identified by the trident on radiator grill and exquisite design. In 1914 The Maserati brothers founded an automobile company in Bologna to create competitive racing cars. The idea proved to be successful with their cars winning multiple races, being driven by some of the most glorious drivers in history, including Juan-Manuel Fangio.
During its long history Maserati has gone through ups and downs, was owned by Citroen, De Tomaso, Ferrari and finally emerged from racing cars into luxury performance cars under Fiat Chrysler Group. The latest 4-door executive saloon Ghibli has boosted the brand’s sales and changed its fortunes. The other models are luxury saloon Quattroporte, sports tourer GranTurismo and convertible GranCabrio. Maserati have also announced the arrival of an SUV named Levante in 2016.
Let’s face it: whenever you hear of an Italian car, it is Ferrari and its prancing horse emblem that pop up to your mind in the first place. And it’s arguably the hottest car brand you can think of. It all started in 1929 when Enzo Ferrari founded Scuderia Ferrari to produce race cars. However, it was not before the end of World War II that he built his first street-legal car.
Since those times Ferrari has turned into the most successful manufacturer in Formula One races and has become a symbol of speed and wealth, with its mostly red-colored sports cars gracing the richest cities and fastest tracks around the world. Since 1969 Ferrari has been owned by FIAT and is now part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The current lineup consists of 458 and 488 sports cars, California, FF and F12 grand tourers and the ultimate hybrid-powered hypercar LaFerrari.
Lamborghini is Ferrari’s main rival and one of the few Italian car manufacturers, not owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Since 1998 it has been owned by Volkswagen Group through Audi AG. The company was established in 1963 by Ferruccio Lamborghini, whose aim was to compete against the best sports car manufacturers of the time. However, unlike most of its rivals, Lamborghini has never really got involved in motorsports apart from delivering its engines for Formula One teams and powerboat competitions.
Instead, the company developed its own strong identity, producing two ranges of sports cars for most of its history. The first one is a line of V8-powered cars, while the other one, featuring monstrous naturally aspirated V12 engines, is what has turned Lamborghini into one of the most respected and desired sports car manufacturers in the world. These fantastic cars are Miura, Countach, Diablo, Murcielago and Aventador.
List of Minor Present Italian Car Companies
Italy is also proud to have numerous automobile design and engineering studios, small car companies that play an important part in automotive industry.
Pagani has only been in sports car business since 1992, yet managed to earn the reputation for building some of the most ultimate racing vehicles in the world. Their cars feature carbon fiber bodies, Mercedes AMG V12 Bi-Turbo engines and extreme level of finishing. Pagani’s two models, Zonda and Huayra, have shown incredible times on the world’s best tracks and are renowned for raw driving sensations.
Abarth is a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and is widely known for producing performance kits and accessories for other Italian manufacturers, such as FIAT or Lancia. However, the company used to build its own racing vehicles before FIAT takeover.
Casalini is a manufacturer of microcars and mopeds, based in Piacenza. The microcars normally feature fiber plastic and glass bodies and are powered by tiny diesel engines.
Covini is a small manufacturer of avant-garde cars, which is best known for a six-wheeled sports car Covini C6W.