Automaker Alfa Romeo is today known as one of the most prestigious Italian luxury automobile makers in the world. Alfa Romeo-built vehicles are admired by car-lovers everywhere for their incredible designs and craftsmanship. But to understand the company in the present, we must first understand its journey in the past. The Alfa Romeo legend originates from 1906, when an automobile company was formed in southern Italy by Alexandre Darracq, a Frenchman. As an automobile enthusiast, his goal was to build quality, inexpensive cars for the world. Despite his noble intentions, however, the company soon tanked financially when the early 20th century automobile market began to slow. (The Frenchman himself was also regarded as too nimble and hesitant to succeed in the Italian market). In 1910, Darracq's factory was sold to a collection of native automobile investors and enthusiasts who named themselves the 'Anonima Lomarda Fabbrica Automobili' (ALFA).
The first ALFA automobile proudly left the factory in 1910. Like today's Alfa Romeo models, it was considered an immediate success. From 1911 on, ALFA further proved its credibility as an automaker with outstanding engineering skills by gaining great success in automobile racing competitions. However, the Societ Anonima Lombarda Fabricia Automobili group proved less impressive in the financial department, and the company finally collapsed. Luckily, it was quickly picked up by engineer and businessperson, Nicola Romeo. Romeo added his name to the already established ALFA brand and Alfa Romeo was born. Shortly after, the Alfa Romeo factories were commissioned by the Italian government to build airplanes for World War I. This period greatly influenced the Alfa Romeo vehicles from this point on, and today, all models are aerodynamically designed inside and out to reflect on principles learned from airplane production.
The company went through several tough financial times and several factory bombings during World War II and continued to struggle in different ways from that point on due to an unstable political environment and economic structure. Somehow, Alfa Romeo managed to build itself up enough to acquire other automobile factories and companies and continue to grow their business. By 1948, the Wars were over, and Alfa Romeo could concentrate solely on automobile production, especially medium-sized family vehicles. By 1963, these mid-sized cars were so successful, Alfa Romeo could barely meet demands. The company decided to expand into the small-sized car market in the late 1960s with the Alfa Romeo Alfasud. This car was accepted favorably, but the company struggled in the tough 1970s and 1980s markets.
The 1990s saw the Alfa Romeo struggle with being its own entity and capitalize on being a part of the FIAT brand; however, this period, specifically the year 1996, witnessed the introduction of the new Alfa Romeo GTV and its convertible sibling- the Spider. These two models established Alfa Romeo's reputation for incredible design and engineering that still prevails today. The Spider and the GTV led to the launch of the Alfa Romeo 156 in 1997, which continued to set incredible quality expectations for the company. It was so amazing that it captured the European Car of the Year award in 1998. Today, Alfa Romeo continues to impress with models such as the stylish, family-friendly Alfa Romeo Giuiletta, the mid-sized Alfa Romeo 159 (and 159 SW), and the efficient Alfa Romeo Mito, which are produced in small, well-built quantities.