The Fiat investments in the Soviet Union in 1960s and 70s
«Automobile multinationals, transfer of technology and East-West relations: The Fiat investments in the Soviet Union in 1960s and 70s»
28 mars 2012, 11h00-13h00
Lieu : Centre des recherches historiques-EHESS, Bâtiment Le France, 190-198 Avenue de France, 75013 Paris
Dans le cadre du séminaire «Histoire des entreprises automobiles en France et en Europe». Ce nouveau séminaire du GIS GERPISA (ENS-CACHAN) a comme ambition mettre à disposition de la communauté des chercheurs en sciences sociales et humaines de la région Ile-de-France les derniers travaux en cours sur l’histoire des entreprises automobiles. Le format est celui de la mise en commun des informations, sources et activités existantes dans ce domaine de la part des participants, ainsi qu’une discussion des travaux présentés tant par des membres du GERPISA, que par des grands témoins et acteurs des entreprises de l’automobile en France et en Europe.
Intervenante : Valentina Fava (University of Helsinki)
On 15th August 1966 in Moscow Vittorio Valletta, president of the Italian automobile company Fiat, and the representatives of the Soviet Government signed the agreement that led to the building of the VAZ -Volzhsky Avtomobilny Zavod, a gigantic automobile plant. The new factory, based in Tol’iatti, started its activities in September 1970 and was soon able to produce 660.000 Fiat 124 per year, ca 2.200 cars per day. The Fiat-Soviet agreement fostered the entrance of the Soviet Union in the « Automotive Century » and gave place to the first massive East-West transfer of technology and knowledge in the automobile sector of the Post World War II period. Starting from the « deal of the Century », the paper intends to « review » the Fiat Group activities in the Soviet Union from the early 1960s to mid-1980s examining the changes in the function that the Soviet « market » had for the Italian company. In fact, the VAZ deal allowed Fiat to enter the Soviet « market » as a first comer and leading player but, paradoxically, the building of the Tol’iatti’s plant had less relevance than it might be expected- especially in terms of profits. In the two decades under examination, Fiat’s aims and strategies changed as well as the « products » to be exported towards the Socialist Great Power- in the 1970s Fiat- through Comau and UTS- was mainly providing machinery, tools and know-how only partially related to the automobile production. Furthermore, the conditions of the Soviet market changed significantly in the twenty years under analysis, and Fiat had to cope with the increasing competitive Japanese and American producers as well as the other European manufacturers.
In this framework the paper will try to answer to two different sets of questions: the first concerning the shifting reasons of Fiat’s interest in the Soviet Union: the 1960s action seemed to be actually « coordinated » with other Italian companies (ENI, Pirelli etc) and strongly backed by the Italian Government (and by parts of the American Administration) and embedded in a political project while in the 1970s the political « motive » and support had become less relevant and Fiat found increasingly difficult to make business in the USSR, especially with the outburst of the economic crisis. The second set of questions will concern the « channels » that Fiat used to enter in the Soviet « market » – and the « capabilities » that Fiat had to develop to deal with the Soviet context and environment; the paper will focuses especially on the role of Fiat’s agent, Novasider. In this perspective, the study of the Fiat « ice-breaker » function in the 1960s might contribute to shed some light on whether and how Western European corporations contributed to the breaking of the East-West trade limitations and to the end of the Cold War, working both as a economic actors as well as a political ones.
Contact : Tommaso Pardi (firstname.lastname@example.org)