The Italian automotive industry is one of the top-five automotive manufacturers in the world, employing nearly 250,000 people, with a revenue of €38.3 billion.
The ‘Italians’ have earned a deserved worldwide reputation for design and speed, often taking a design first, engineering second approach to their vehicles, and for the main part, this has worked well for them, apart from rust-prone Lancia Beta.
It’s generally considered that Karl Benz first invented the ‘motorcar’ in 1886, but it seems that Italian Enrico Bernardi may well have beaten Benz to it – he built a tricycle car that ran on petrol in 1884, this was truly the world’s first petrol powered vehicle.
Perhaps the most well-known character in the Italian motoring world was Enzo Anselmo Ferrari; the creator of the Scuderia Ferrari Grand Prix racing team, which was the precursor to Ferrari automobiles.
Ferrari, also known as il Commendatore had a strong belief in his own abilities, even giving Ford the runaround in the 60’s which led to the creation of the Ford GT40. Ferrari cars from that era are some of the most sought after vehicles today with the Dino named after his son on top.
It seems that whatever the Italians turn their collective hands to, the end product is stylish, design-led and even artful; even the mundane such as a calendar has been turned into collectable thanks to Pirelli.
The automotive manufacturers that hail from Italy, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo and Maserati, have one thing in common – the desirability inherent with their cars; imagine a tractor manufacturer turning their hand to designing sports cars and becoming one of the most iconic pin-up posters of the Eighties? That’s the story of Lamborghini Countach.
While the Countach looked like it was doing 100 MPH whilst standing still, the reality of driving it was a prospect that many didn’t relish; yes it was brutally fast, had tyres so wide as they’d been lifted from an F1 car and a cockpit that cocooned you, but it was noisy, harsh, uncomfortable and the only way to reverse it was by hanging out of the driver’s door to look back – design first, engineering second.
Although gone are the days of ‘forget everything except the style’ engineering, these particular Italian brands aren’t brought for reliability, comfort or the ability to tow a trailer – the strength of the Italian manufacturing remains their epic style.