A.L.F.A. ("Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili", translating to Anonymous Lombard Automobile Factory in English) was founded in June 1910 and originally was a race-car manufacturer. With the advent of World War I came a new director who led the company to make equipment for the Allied war effort. His name? Nicola Romeo.
The company has been involved in car racing since 1911. It was owned by Italian state holding company Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between 1932 and 1986, when it became a part of the Fiat group. In February 2007, the Alfa Romeo brand was transformed into the current Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., a subsidiary of Fiat Group Automobiles, now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Italy.
The company that became Alfa Romeo was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. In late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and the Italian partners of the company hired Giuseppe Merosi to design new cars. On June 24, 1910, a new company was founded named A.L.F.A., initially still in partnership with Darracq.
- Established: June 24, 1910, Milan, Italy
- CEO: Harald J. Wester
- Founder: Ugo Stella, Nicola Romeo, Alexandre Darracq
- Website : http://www.alfaromeo.com
By 1932, however, the company was nearly bankrupt. Romeo had left in 1928, and the world-wide depression dramatically reduced demand for new vehicles. Alfa Romeo was rescued by the Italian government and turned to making luxury vehicles for the rich and/or well-connected.
After World War II, Alfa Romeo turned to building small, economical cars to boost profits and to support its motorsports efforts. Despite a series of entertaining sedans, coupes, and convertibles, as well as decades of race victories, Alfa Romeo began to struggle financially again in the late 1970s. Fiat acquired Alfa in 1986.
As part of Fiat, Alfa Romeo left U.S. shores in the mid-1990s but recently returned, with its 8C Competizione sold at Maserati dealerships since October 2008. The next Alfa Romeo to be sold in the US, possibly to be manufactured at Chrysler factories, is the Mi TO, intended to compete with the Mini Cooper. The global economic crisis may delay its arrival until 2010 or 2011, however.
One of Alfa's most remarkable accomplishments was its twin cam engine, which remained in production with only minor variations from 1954 to 1994, a run of 40 years. It featured an aluminum alloy engine block, aluminum alloy hemispheric cylinder heads, two valves per cylinder, and, of course, a twin camshaft driven by a double row timing chain. It was used in 17 cars, including the Alfa Romeo Spider, one of the automaker's most famous cars.