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A group of Milanese businessmen took over a factory set up to produce Darracq 4-cylinder taxicabs. The group was called A.L.F.A. - Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili. Guiseppe Merosi, a self-taught engineer, was hired as head designer. The first production A.L.F.A. designed by Merosi was the 1910 24HP. This large, conventional touring car and subsequent designs by Merosi were solid and unadventurous, but consistently achieved a high level of quality and reliability. A.L.F.A.'s sales grew, but the outbreak of WWI put a stop to automobile production.
In 1916 the company came under the direction of a high-flying Neopolitan industrialist named Nicola Romeo. During the crisis of 1929 Romeo's industrial empire had financial difficulties and suffered serious damage. Romeo had been removed as director in 1928 and the company passed into government receivership shortly after the crash. In 1934 it was absorbed with other industrial companies by an agency of the Facist government, the Instituto di Riconstruzzione Industriale (IRI), which controlled it for over 50 years.
The second World War again brought a virtual halt to car production at Alfa. Partially-assembled production vehicles were put in storage and a few racing and experimental cars were hidden in caves north of Milan. The war was a disaster for Italy and for Alfa. Occupying German troops commandeered part of what remained of the severely damaged factory. The design team worked through the destruction to develop a different kind of Alfa Romeo for the changed Europe that lay ahead.
A completely new passenger car, the Alfa Romeo 1900, was introduced in 1950 and in 1954 the Giulietta was introduced. The Giulietta is essentially the beginning of the modern era in Alfa Romeo's history.