Giovanni Agnelli was born in Piedmont, Italy, in 1866. His father was Edoardo Agnelli, the wealthy mayor of Villar Perosa.
After studying at the expensive private school, Collegio San Guiuseppe, he spent time in the military. After experimenting in the development of motorised tricycles he founded Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) in 1899.
Agnetti took an increasing interest in politics and in 1918 joined the campaign against the formation of the League of Nations. Instead he urged the establishment of "a federation of European states under a central power which governs them." He thought this would maintain peace in Europe. Agnetti also argued it would help economic growth: "Only a federal Europe will be able to give us a more economic realization of the division of labour, with the elimination of all customs barriers."
In 1920 Agnetti suggested that Fiat might be transformed into a cooperative managed by the workers. However, he soon abandoned this idea and gave his support to Benito Mussolini.
During the Second World War Agnetti played an important role in mobilizing Italian industry. Giovanni Agnelli died in 1945.