Yuri Ivanovich Sum,
INTERVIEW WITH GIANNI AGNELLI
INTERVIEWER: This is tape 10135, the twenty sixth of February 1996. Signor Agnelli, thank you very much indeed for agreeing to talk to us for our series on the Cold War and our programme on the Marshall Plan. Can I start off by asking you to describe for us briefly what was the state of Italy in the years post the Second World War?
GIANNI AGNELLI: Well, Italy had been overrun by the War, there had practically been civil war, north and south of the Gothic Line, heavy bombing, the northern industrial cities had been bombed heavily and we had political disorder before 1948. So now you'll really, actually going back half a century to '47, '48, '47 when the Marshall Plan was conceived and '48 when it came into action in the European countries.
INT: Could you describe to me then the state of Fiat in the years immediately after the Second World War?
GA: I can give you a few figures. I mean, Fiat in 1945, after the War, was producing four thousand motor cars a year. I mean, we had been a) bombed from 1940 to '45, we had the German occupation, we had machinery taken away, we still had the technology of seven or eight years ahead, which was very insufficient, and we had an overhead amount of workers in the factory, because one had to protect people from the army people that could been taken away for slave work by the German troops, we had about fifty, sixty thousand people who produced about twelve thousand cars a year. So, it was [clears throat] very, very, very weak position. Now between '45 and '48, things would change enormously, 'cos we'd had credit in United States, credit from the Bank of America, credit from the Import-Export Bank and people had started working again. Surely the '48 Marshall Plan, which gave to Italy, I think, about a billion and a half dollars on fifteen billion dollars of the whole programme, came in the north... I mean, what Fiat had it was not very big, it was something like forty or fifty million dollars, but it's enough to get revolving credit, to get starting away again, the buying of new machinery. And the buying of new machinery meant not only the possibility of production, but even the new technology, 'cos as I mentioned before, we were back of seven, eight years.
INT: I think I'll just go back on that again. You...
GA: (Interrupts) This is too short or is it too long or not:
INT: No, no it's perfect, absolutely perfect.
GA: No, because you told me to be short...
INT: No, it's absolutely right. No, because these are the sort of... the length of answers that will... we will be able to use very effectively. You said the state of the technology was seven years ahead, I think.
GA: No behind.
INT: Yes, I think you...
GA: No, I meant behind, yes. We were still at, let's say, '37, '38, '39.
INT: Well, perhaps I should just ask you again that question...
GA: (Interrupts) Yes, surely, 'cos of the mistakes...
INT: So, again, perhaps you could just describe the state of the factories, the machinery, the fabric of the company in the post-War period.
GA: All the technology of our production was still pre-War. They were sort of '38, '39 and the War had been stable and so we were infinitely behind whatever had been going on in the United States for instance.
INT: And the factories themselves, were heavily...
GA: (Interrupts) The factories were heavily bombed, but practically the construction work had been redone very quickly. What is difficult to redo is the tool machines that you need inside and the new technologies you need to produce. It was mainly... I mean whatever we bought regardless, mechanical industry, aviation industry and steel industry.
INT: Can you remember when you first heard or first began to learn about the Marshall Plan, what your reaction was?
GA: Well, in '47, I mean, we must think that in Europe and in Italy especially, we thought of America as all-powerful. I mean, they'd won the War for us, they had fifty per cent of the world GNP, they had all the modern technology, they'd beaten the Nazi system and I don't say that you didn't expect it, but we were pleasantly surprised to see the generosity of their foreign policy and the generosity of their foreign policy at that moment was expressed through the Marshall Plan and the Marshall Plan to us meant a general that had turned into a Secretary of State, that the Secretary of State saw the necessity of the reconstructions of these European countries that had suffered so heavily. It was part of that very strong pro-American feeling that was created in Italy surely in those days.
INT: So how would you sum up overall the importance of the Marshall Plan to Fiat?
GA: Well, I would say that it speeded up things, it gave us a closer connection again with the United States, which we already had in pre-War days, but it added, created all that sort of Euro-Atlantic spirit and feeling that the first ten fifteen of post-War years were impregnated with, I'd say.
INT: What did Fiat use the Marshall aid for? What did you actually get in concrete terms?
GA: Well, you see, let us... Italy in the first years got food, for the first year or the first periods got food. Then we got raw materials and then we got tool machines, let's say, instruments for working. Fiat was obviously in the second two. And then the Italian government who imported the Marshall goods, was paid by the Italians in the Treasury of the Italian government and they were supposed to be invested in (unintelligible), in infrastructure for the country. But that didn't happen all the way, because Italia had previous debts to put in order and wanted to create reserves for the doubt... for the difficult situation of the (unintelligible) at that moment.
INT: So was it... was the prime benefit for Fiat specific machinery that came in...
GA: (Interrupts) Yes, specifically machinery, yes.
INT: Right. Were there any strings attached to receiving Marshall aid?
GA: Well, I... as far as I recall, I remember there were none at all. There were no strings. I would say the only string was a psychological string, which was a certain gratitude towards who expressed this policy of generosity.
INT: Was there ever a feeling that Communist workers or managers shouldn't be employed if you were receiving Marshall aid?
GA: No, no. There was never that feeling. I remember that kind of feeling happened a certain moment when you were doing let's say...
GA: No, there was never any feeling of that kind in the Marshall Plan. There was some feeling of that kind when we were doing aviation engines for the NATO later on, when one had those... those sort of commitments, then there were a certain amount of military secrets and they didn't want Communists workers in factories under particular secrecy. But I remember, I mean, in that period there, when the Marshall Plan was thought of for Europe, it was offered to Czechoslovakia and Czechoslovakia did not accept it. So I mean, (unintelligible) that did accept it was aligned in a certain kind of world.