More than elsewhere, in Italy the economy car is a symbol of mass motorization, and indeed of the economic boom of which it was both a cause and an effect. The economy car is a cult object that embodies consumer society. Its history traces its roots back to the Balilla and the Topolino models, but really comes into its own after World War II, during the country's recovery. After having ridden Vespas and Lambrettas, Italians took to driving their Cinquecentos and Seicentos: the automobile industry took off, roads and highways were built throughout the land. Cities and landscapes underwent major changes, as did Italians themselves, their life-styles, their mindsets. The history of the economy car - as told with grace and intelligence by the author - coincides with the history of contemporary Italy.
Daniele Marchesini teaches Contemporary History at the University of Parma.