The only two living members of the European Automotive Hall of Fame are both Italian, both were born in Piedmont, both live in Turin and both have worked for Fiat. In spite of these many similarities, no two people are more different than Gianni Agnelli and Giorgetto Giugiaro.
Along with 11 other industry legends, the two men will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Palexpo in Geneva on Wednesday, February 28.
The differences start with their families.
Agnelli, born in Turin on March 12, 1921, comes from a wealthy family. His grandfather Giovanni, who began as a minor
figure at the Fiat foundation serving as secretary to the board, became the main shareholder of the tiny Turin carmaker and turned it into a huge multinational and diversified industrial group.
Giugiaro was born in Garessio, a small village in the Maritime Alps that divide the Padana plain from the Ligure sea. His grandfather Luigi and his father, Mario, were village painters, working mainly on villa frescos for wealthy people and in churches.
Educated by the best private tutors and in the best public schools of Turin, Agnelli looked to have an easy life. But he would not escape the misfortune that seems to punish his family.
The Fiat magnate was christened Giovanni like his grandfather, but he has been called simply Gianni since he was a child. He planned to graduate in law in Turin in 1943, but in the winter of 1941 World War II obliged that he enter the Italian army, first in Russia and then in Africa. He finally graduated in Rome after the end of the war, but never became a lawyer.
His father Edoardo, the only son of the dynasty patriarch, was the heir apparent to the Fiat empire, but he died on July 14, 1935 at the age of 43 in an airplane accident. This led to Gianni, Edoardo's eldest son, being named to the board when he was 21. He remained there for 53 years.
Gianni became vice chairman of Fiat in July 1946, when Vittorio Valletta was named chairman replacing his grandfather, Giovanni Sr. His own reign as chairman ran from April 1966 until June 1996. He was then named honorary chairman, a title he continues to hold.
On November 19, 1953 he married Marella Caracciolo di Castagneto, and they had two children: Edoardo, born in 1954, and Margherita, born in 1955. Neither ever had a role within the Fiat Group.
When in summer 1996 Gianni announced he would retire as Fiat chairman, he designated that the next chairman would be Giovanni Alberto, the eldest son of his younger brother Umberto. Shortly after, the heir apparent was found to have cancer.
He died on December 13, 1997 at the age of 33.
The cruel destiny affecting the Agnelli family continued: on November 15, 2000, Gianni's only son, Edoardo, committed suicide.
GIORGETTO GIUGIARO'S family was steeped in the arts. They were simple and happy people, not affluent, but not poor.
He was born on August 7, 1938 and was baptized Giorgetto, the boyish nickname of Giorgio. He was too young to be involved in the war, but he remembers the consequences.
Food was sometimes lacking in the Garessio village, but this was not enough to leave Giugiaro with bad memories of the period. While Turin suffered heavy bomb damage, Garessio was spared.
His private life has been happy and peaceful. In September 1963 he married Maria Teresa Serra, a colleague of his early years as a designer in his first job at Fiat. His two children are now both involved in the family business.
Fabrizio, born in 1965, is responsible for the Styling and Models Division of Italdesign-Giugiaro SpA His daughter Laura, born in 1968, is a fashion designer and works as managing director of Giugiaro Design, the group's product design company.
Many say that Giugiaro's true fortune was not made by taking his company public, which he did in November 1999, adding several other million euros to his already hefty bank account.
Instead it was to have a son who is a true partner and a tough competitor in the styling studio. With Fabrizio, for the first time a Turinese carrozzeria has a second-generation member heavily involved in the design side of the family business.
Giorgetto and Fabrizio not only compete on every new styling project carried out at Italdesign, but also on the road. As they are both heading to their company, based in the industrial area of Moncalieri, south of Turin, from their homes in the surrounding hills, they spot each other.
'Every morning it is always a tough race to see who gets into the office first,' smiles Fabrizio.
During his childhood in Garessio, the young Giugiaro helped his grandfather and father as they painted giant frescos and never imagined that he would become a car designer.
His career came about more by accident than by deliberate choice. After moving to Turin to attend junior high school, Giugiaro studied art by day at specialist school and technical design in the evenings.
The turning point in his life was in June 1955. His automobile caricatures displayed at an exhibition by his technical drawing school were seen by Dante Giacosa, Fiat's legendary technical director. Giacosa had a sharp eye and saw the talent behind the caricatures. In September 1955, Giugiaro joined Fiat's Special Vehicle Design Study Department.
In late 1955, Gianni Agnelli and Giorgetto Giugiaro were both working for Fiat. Giugiaro knew who Agnelli was, but they didn't meet at the time. The first direct contact between the only two living members of the Hall of Fame wouldn't be for 20 years.
GIANNI AGNELLI has never been personally involved in running the Fiat Group. In his 53 years as chairman of the board, he always had a strong CEO for the day-to-day business. His main public role was a sort of ambassador of the group around the world. Indeed, the fancied the idea, in the 1970s, of becoming Italy's ambassador to the United States.
Despite staying far away from the daily routine, he was always on the forefront of any strategic decision.
Agnelli is very proud of Fiat's masterpiece of internationalization: a deal with the Russian carmaker AutoVAZ in Togliatti. The 1966 agreement resulted in one of the biggest technology transfers ever. Russia got a complete car plant from Fiat, capable of 660,000 units a year, as well as a network of suppliers needed to build cars - from coiled sheet metal coils to tires.
It was also a diplomatic masterpiece, as the AvtoVAZ contract was signed in 1966, in the middle of the Cold War,.
The deal was less good on the business side. 'It represented almost a zero profit operation,' said Agnelli later, 'but it was very successful in establishing Fiat as one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world.'
Agnelli was at the forefront when Fiat acquired Lancia in 1968. And a year later, on July 21, 1969, he personally closed a deal - in a long face-to-face meeting with Enzo Ferrari - to buy 50 percent of the sports car maker and get an option on the rest of the shares.
'I listened to the long and detailed exposition of Enzo Ferrari, a man I had always admired,' Agnelli once said. 'When he was finished, I just said OK to everything he had requested, adding only: 1/8We just lost time. We should have sealed this deal long time ago.' '
He was referring to Ford's attempt to buy all of Ferrari in 1963. On May 20, 1963, after 22 days of close negotiations, Enzo Ferrari was signing the many pages of the Ford agreement. But when he found something he didn't like in Clause 2 of the Annex 17, he stopped the deal cold.
Insiders said later that Ferrari always wanted Fiat as a partner and had used the deal with Ford to raise the price. By saying 'we just lost time,' Agnelli probably knew that Ferrari's partner could have not been anyone other than Fiat.
IN THE LATE 1950s, Giorgetto Giugiaro grew unhappy at Fiat. He found it hard, in such a large organization, to develop his skills as rapidly as he wanted. In December 1959 he took a giant step, becoming the head of the Bertone Styling Center. Nuccio Bertone invested everything in his 21-year-old prodigy, and both men were richly rewarded. Giugiaro says that he owes his success to Bertone, who guided and advised him.
The years Giugiaro spent under Bertone were fundamental for his training. They allowed him to carve out a niche for himself on the Turin design scene. He first made his name designing concept cars. Then he moved onto production models.
For Alfa Romeo he designed the 1960 2000 Sprint and the Giulia GT of 1963. For Fiat he designed the stunning 1965 850 spider, and the first Fiat car with a Ferrari engine, the Dino coupe of 1967.
Though he was designing cars for Fiat, it was indirectly. The work was commissioned to Carrozzeria Bertone. Nuccio had all the contacts with Fiat management, leaving Giugiaro in the shadows.
In November 1965, he left Bertone to join Ghia, another Turin carrozzeria. During two years there, he designed a concept car based on a Fiat, the 1966 850 Vanessa. This first and somewhat controversial attempt to design a car for women was done as a show car, not a Fiat commission.
But at Ghia he still had to report to a boss. In February 1967, Giugiaro satisfied his desire for independence and created his first independent company, Ital Styling. From the small flat he rented in Via Giolitti 49, in the center of Turin, he continued to work for Ghia on a freelance basis. But he also accepted a commission that would change his career yet again: sketching a front-wheel-drive hatchback for Alfa Romeo.
For the project, which would become the Alfasud range, Alfa Romeo decided to subcontract not only the design, but also the entire engineering and development. To do the work, Giugiaro closed Ital Styling and joined forces with three technicians - Aldo Mantovani, Luciano Bosio and Gino Boaretti. Together they founded a new company to manage the Alfasud project.
One of the battles he fought had to do with its name. Giorgetto tried for 19 years to impose Italdesign as the trademark of his company.
He recalls: 'When the memorandum of association was deposited in February 1998, the registered company name was the ugly Societa Industriale Realizzazione Prototipi or, in short, S.I.R.P. SpA.
'Partly this was my fault. It was down to me to think of a name for the new company, but I hadn't yet come up with anything that was really convincing. Meanwhile, I had to leave for Japan on business and, when I returned, I discovered that my partner Aldo Mantovani had registered the name S.I.R.P.! I was furious and immediately decided that we would be called 'Ital Design,' written as two separate words. I admit that it was not a triumph of the imagination. However, with equal spontaneity, I designed the company logo which was effectively a stylized combination of an I and a D.'
This resulted in confusion for clients and suppliers, who were making deals with Ital Design, but receiving invoices and checks from S.I.R.P. SpA.
The company was finally registered as Italdesign SpA. in May 1987. Giugiaro said that he took so long to impose his original idea 'partly because, thankfully, there have always been more important company matters to deal with. And partly because Italian bureaucracy is so jumbled and expensive that, every time I decided to change the company name formally, I faced delays and costs which rather put me off the idea.'
Meanwhile, Ital Design was doing something unthinkable: designing and engineering Alfa Romeos in Turin, the city of Fiat.
Many considered that outrageous. Even the soft-spoken Agnelli had a strong personal view on the Alfasud mass-market project.
The Alfasud project 'did not make any sense at all,' Agnelli later said. 'At that time Mr. Petrilli (the chairman of the state-owned holding IRI that controlled Alfa Romeo) said that with Alfasud, 1/8Fiat will enjoy some competition.' For a brand such as Alfa to build a popular car like the Alfasud in small numbers was nonsense on the business side. And it cost a fortune to Italian taxpayers. We needed competition? We already had competitors all over the world.'
When the Alfasud sedan hit the market in 1971 - the first Alfa Romeo to directly compete with Fiat models - Giugiaro seemed to have made an enemy of Fiat.
Ital Design was growing, and Giorgetto Giugiaro was designing cars for companies all over the world - but nothing for Fiat. The ban seemed as if it would last forever. Then a commission arrived from an almost bankrupt German company. It turned out to be his ticket to be admitted as a supplier to Fiat.
THE COMPANY was Volkswagen, and the car was the Golf.
The Golf revolutionized the lower-medium segment when it was launched in 1974, not only in Europe but in the entire world. At that point, even an angry Fiat could not ignore the fact that a great designer of hugely successful mass production cars had emerged in Turin.
As the Golf was taking the market by storm in July 1975, Fiat called Giugiaro and asked him to style the Y5 project. This Lancia was to be derived from the Fiat Ritmo/Strada. Fiat had absorbed Lancia in 1968 and had made a number of unsuccessful attempts to relaunch the luxury brand. It needed a breakthrough car to turn Lancia around.
Giugiaro designed the Delta, which debuted in September 1979. European journalists named it Car of the Year 1980, and Lancia's fortunes began to improve.
While the Y5-Delta was still under development, in late July 1976, Giugiaro took another call from Fiat. Recognizing the ability of Giugiaro and his technical partner Mantovani, Fiat asked Ital Design to design and engineer the Tipo Zero, a car to replace the unsuccessful Fiat 126, which had replaced the mythical Cinquecento.
The Tipo Zero became the Panda. The car was launched in March 1980 and is still in production, making it the longest-serving Fiat ever.
It was the first Fiat car fully designed and engineered by an external supplier.
Twenty years had passed from Giugiaro's first day at Fiat Special Vehicle Design Study Department to the Y5 project.
AS THE CHIEF ambassador, spokesman and stockholder, Gianni Agnelli was welcome everywhere and he commanded respect. In nearly 60 years in the auto industry, Agnelli met everyone important. He says the late Henry Ford II was one of the people he most respected and the two family patriarchs saw each other frequently. But in business, Ford and Fiat could never get together. In late 1986, Fiat bought Alfa Romeo, its old nemesis. For years, Fiat said it was not interested in Alfa. But when Ford entered final negotiations to buy a stake in the company, Fiat jumped into the bidding and provided a popular Italian solution.
Agnelli was not overjoyed. 'We just annexed the weak province,' he said after the acquisition.
Two years earlier, Ford came to Italy to propose a deal with Fiat itself. In the autumn of 1984 the companies began discussing a merger of Fiat Auto and Ford Europe.
It would have created Europe's biggest carmaker, with a market share of 25 percent. Talks collapsed in October 1985 when Fiat and Ford could not agree on which company would control 51 percent of the merged company.
In the summer of 1987, Toyota offered to buy Fiat. Agnelli said no.
On November 2, 1990, after more than a year of meetings, negotiations with Chrysler Corp. over a full merger ended unsuccessfully.
Ford came again in the summer of 1999, but in March 2000, Fiat signed a strategic alliance with General Motors.
'If I had been told when I was a boy that I would become a partner of GM, I'd never have believed it.'said Agnelli
He was again at the forefront of the strategic decision. On the table - along with the GM proposal - was a hefty DaimlerChrysler offer to buy the entire Fiat Group.
Though he was retired and held no office more powerful than 'honorary chairman,' Agnelli was the decision maker. He opposed a complete sale of the group he had inherited from his grandfather. Agnelli wanted Fiat to survive in the new millennium, still making cars and still owned by the Agnelli family. As a result of the alliance with General Motors, Fiat SpA. is the second largest shareholder in General Motors, after an investment fund. That probably makes Gianni Agnelli the most important individual stockholder in the world's largest automaker.
The two living Hall of Fame legends finally met in late 1976. At the time, Giugiaro had already styled the Lancia Delta and was working around the clock on the Fiat Panda.
AGNELLI WAS not interested in reviewing Giugiaro's projects - he never got involved in the day-to-day business - but he was curious to meet the young man he knew only by his growing reputation. It was Agnelli's initiative, so protocol called for Agnelli to visit Ital Design.
Since the Lancia Delta, Giugiaro's relationship with Fiat had been intense. There were periods when almost everything he designed went into production, like the Lancia Prisma (1982), the Fiat Uno (1983), the Lancia Thema (1984), the Fiat Duna sedan and Croma (1985), and the Fiat Duna station wagon (1986). There were calmer periods, like the 1990s, when only the first-generation Punto (1983) was from Giugiaro. But he continued to work for Fiat, and ItalDesign also did engineering work for Fiat models that were styled in-house.
Despite more than 25 years of cooperation between ItalDesign and Fiat, the one project on which Agnelli and Giugiaro worked most closely together was not a car.
In March, 1998, Turin decided to compete for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Giugiaro was named chairman of the committee that led Turin's bid. Behind the scenes, Agnelli used all his charm and high-level connections to help Turin win a competition that it seemed sure to lose.
At the meeting of the Olympic Committee in Seoul in June 1999, photographers were ready to capture the exultation of the delegation from Sion, France, considered the frontrunner for the 2006 Olympics. They were hit by a surprise: Turin won.
Two people had broader smiles than anyone else: Giugiaro in Korea, and Agnelli in Turin. They had won the first and only battle they ever fought side-to-side.
Their most recent meeting was in Turin on January 30 to shoot the pictures for this story. Giugiaro went to Lingotto, Fiat's headquarters, driving the Buran, the concept car he had unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March 2000. It is a revolutionary proposal for a possible future Maserati limousine.
Agnelli was very interested in the car and asked Giugiaro if it was possible to have a ride. They finished their meeting by driving together in the Buran on the test track on top of the Lingotto roof.
Under a smiling Turin sky, the two men with 141 years of automotive history were in deep conversation. True car enthusiasts, they could not stand in front of a new car without trying to discover everything about it.