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.
Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A. (Italian: [ˈalfa roˈmɛːo]) is a luxury car manufacturer, founded by Frenchman Alexandre Darracq as A.L.F.A. ("[Società] Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili", "Lombard Automobile Factory Company") on 24 June 1910, in Milan. The brand is known for sporty vehicles and has been involved in car racing since 1911.
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, but struggled to make a profit, so Istituto per la Reconstruzione (IRI), the state conglomerate that controls Finmeccanica sold the marque to the Fiat Group in 1986.