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Alfa Romeo

Societa Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) was set up in Naples in 1906 by French car maker Alexandre Darracq, Ugo Stella and others, to assemble Darracq cars in Naples from imported parts. In a change of plan they built a factory in Milan (capital of Lombardy). The underpowered Darracqs struggled on the rough and hilly roads of Italy. In June 1910 the company was therefore reorganised by Stella and others as Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili (the Lombardy Automobile Manufacturing Co) or ALFA, initially still involving Alexandre Darracq, but building high-powered cars more suited to the Italian market. Italy's entry into the Great War in 1915 brought an end to car production. Nicola Romeo took over the ALFA factory in 1915 to work for the Allied war effort. In 1918 the ALFA company was reorganised as SA Italiana Ing Nicola Romeo and returned to car production, but in the 1920s the firm never recovered financially from the loss of wartime munitions contracts. In 1928 Nicola Romeo departed, leaving the firm in financial difficulties. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini saved the company from extinction; from 1932 Alfa-Romeo was controlled by the Italian state and produced sporting and prestige cars, including state limousines for Mussolini and his government. The marque was now a status symbol of the Fascist state, rather like Mercedes-Benz in Germany. Mussolini exhorted the company to 'Race and win for Italy'. Their cars had successes, notably in the hands of the Scuderia Ferrari, but they could not compete with the German racing teams and pulled out of competition in the late 1930s. The cars were hidden in wartime, and were successful in early postwar grands prix. Postwar road cars were loved by enthusiasts, including the Giulia, Giulietta and the Spider. The government-sponsored Alfasud was less well-loved. More exotic ventures included the Montreal supercar and ownership of a Formula 1 team. In 1986 Fiat took over Alfa, which was struggling financially. Sharing Fiat Group platforms restored the health of the company, which was further enhanced when the new Fiat-Chrysler Group decided that future expansion would be spearheaded by Alfa Romeo.
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