The company was owned by Italian state holding company Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between 1932 and 1986, when it became a part of the Fiat group. In February 2007, the Alfa Romeo brand became Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., a subsidiary of Fiat Group Automobiles, now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Italy.
The company that became Alfa Romeo was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with Italian investors. In late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and the Italian partners of the company hired Giuseppe Merosi to design new cars. On 24 June 1910, a new company was founded named A.L.F.A., initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by the company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Merosi. A.L.F.A. ventured into motor racing, with drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24-hp models. In August 1915, the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo with the Torpedo 20-30 HP the first car to be so badged.
In 1921, the Banca Italiana di Sconto, which backed the Ing. Nicola Romeo & Co, went broke and the government needed to support the industrial companies involved, among which was Alfa Romeo, through the "Consorzio per Sovvenzioni sui Valori Industriali". In 1925, the railway activities were separated from the Romeo company, and in 1928, Nicola Romeo left. In 1933, the state ownership was reorganized under the banner of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) by Benito Mussolini's government, which then had effective control. The company struggled to return to profitability after the Second World War, and turned to mass-producing small vehicles rather than hand-building luxury models. In 1954, it developed the Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine, which would remain in production until 1994. During the 1960s and 1970s, Alfa Romeo produced a number of sporty cars, though the Italian government parent company, Finmeccanica, struggled to make a profit, so it sold the marque to the Fiat Group in 1986.
Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sportscar racing, touring car racing, and rallies. It has competed both as a constructor and an engine supplier, via works entries (usually under the name Alfa Corse or Autodelta), and private entries. The first racing car was made in 1913, three years after the foundation of the company, and Alfa Romeo won the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925. The race victories gave a sporty image to the marque, and Enzo Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929 as an Alfa Romeo racing team, before becoming independent in 1939. It has had the most wins of any marque in the world.
The company's name is a combination of the original name, "A.L.F.A." ("Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili"), and the last name of entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who took control of the company in 1915.
The company that became Alfa Romeo was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. One of them, Cavaliere Ugo Stella, an aristocrat from Milan, became chairman of the SAID in 1909. The firm's initial location was in Naples, but even before the construction of the planned factory had started, Darracq decided late in 1906 that Milan would be more suitable and accordingly a tract of land was acquired in the Milan suburb of Portello, where a new factory of 6,700 square metres (8,000 sq yd) was erected. Late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and Stella, with the other Italian co-investors, founded a new company named A.L.F.A. (Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili), initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by the company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Giuseppe Merosi, hired in 1909 for designing new cars more suited to the Italian market. Merosi would go on to design a series of new A.L.F.A. cars, with more powerful engines (40-60 HP). A.L.F.A. ventured into motor racing, with drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24-hp models. In 1914, an advanced Grand Prix car was designed and built, the GP1914, with a four-cylinder engine, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and twin ignition. However, the onset of the First World War halted automobile production at A.L.F.A. for three years.
In August 1915, the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. Munitions, aircraft engines and other components, compressors, and generators based on the company's existing car engines were produced in a vastly enlarged factory during the war. After the war, Romeo invested his war profits in acquiring locomotive and railway carriage plants in Saronno (Costruzioni Meccaniche di Saronno), Rome (Officine Meccaniche di Roma), and Naples (Officine Ferroviarie Meridionali), which were added to his A.L.F.A. ownership.