We have received the sad news that Franco Fassi, founder of the loader crane company that bears his name, has died.
Fassi suddenly passed away on the evening of August 19th from a ‘fatal illness’ while on vacation with his family in Pinzola, in the Trentino mountains. He was 89 but until the August vacations began, went to work each day, often walking through the production halls whenever he visited the factory.
The Fassi family originally operated a trading and transport business, with Franco’s father Giacoma officially registering the company in 1946, to sell timber, coal and later building materials, while providing the relevant transportation.
Franco went to work with the family firm - now Fassi Giacomo e figlio, (Giacomo Fassi and Son) - from a young age and became passionate about the trucks the company ran - particularly the engines which he helped maintain and modify as the company began a truck body installation operation, adding items such as tipper beds etc... During this time he took training courses in Milan on engines and mechanical engineering, while keeping abreast of the increasing regulation surrounding the truck building industry. During a meeting between the industry and the relevant ministry in Rome, he met the Foco crane (later Hiab-Foco) importer for Italy and agreed to try and sell the cranes in his local area.
Then in the mid 1960s a major economic crisis hit the building industry and the company particularly hard. The Fassi family had no option to drastically adjust the business to the situation, cutting the number of employees from more than 100 to just a dozen of the most skilled workers.
In 1965, realising that a change was need, he decided to build his own loader cranes and commissioned an engineer Ermes Campanella to design them. The first prototype apparently failed on the test bed during its first lift, requiring a redesign which passed with flying colours and the first unit - the three tonne M30 - was built and sold to a local company. This was the start of the new business Fassi Gru and over the next three years 150 cranes were produced.
In 1968 the company exported its first crane to France, where it appointed a dealer. Representation in Spain quickly followed, kicking off a gradual international expansion. By the 1980s the company was the dominant producer in the Italian market and began expanding its overseas distribution network more rapidly. Today it is a global business and among the top three manufacturers worldwide.
Franco Fassi leaves behind wife Angela, along with his three children, his son and Fassi Gru chief executive Giovanni, along with daughters Anna Maria and Raffaella.
A statement from the company is reproduced below in full:
“Today is a very sad day of mourning for all of us. This morning, our Franco, the president of the Fassi Group, the man who laid the groundwork so that we could become who we are, left us unexpectedly due to illness.
He remained in the business until 1st August this year, always present and attentive at the age of 89, which he celebrated last February, and which brought with it the activity and lucidity that have always distinguished him. Afterwards, he allowed himself a period of rest in the Trentino mountains he loved, in the company of his wife Angela who mourns with his children Giovanni, Anna Maria and Raffaella."
"His story as a man and as an entrepreneur has seen him engaged in the family business as a boy, in the company Fassi Giacomo, officially established in 1946 in the sale and transport of timber and coal, joined later by trade in building materials.
During the fifties and sixties, Fassi began to deal with the preparation of trucks and Franco, an engine enthusiast, specialised in techniques for installing tippers. His pioneering industrial spirit revealed itself by his ability to pick up and interpret the signs of a construction market that, in the mid-1960s, was experiencing a deep crisis that did not spare Fassi and decimated the reduced workforce from a hundred to a dozen employees."
"Franco, the Innovator, decided to break new ground and overcome the crisis. He negotiated commercial agreements with the Swedish company Foco to import truck-cranes into Italy and this activity triggered the idea of becoming a crane manufacturer in 1965. It was the year that changed both his personal history and that of the company. It began with the launch of the first model: a crane that lifted a weight of three tonnes at a height of two metres, sold to an entrepreneur in Val Brembana."
"Thus began what Franco Fassi liked to define as 'an exciting adventure, full of so many sacrifices, but of which the whole family is proud'.
Committed to his ideas, and strong and determined as always, Franco Fassi started on a new path, prototype experiments and lifting solutions, which led to a production process characterised by the red colour that distinguishes it from its competitors. The bright colour is a sign of passion, 'but also of safety', as he used to say."
"Franco had seen us right, in three years Fassi had produced and sold 150 cranes, including to businesses abroad. The Innovator, however, did not stop there; he put on the suit of a businessman, and then returned to the workshop to work, in perfect operational duality, a salesman able to magnify what he himself produced, always in search of optimisation and research for product innovation.
If Fassi was the market leader in Italy in the 80s with a thousand cranes produced per year, this is due to the spirit of Franco Fassi, who was attentive to the development and investment of the company and to its internationalisation on foreign markets. In the 90s, the Innovator, with suitcase in hand, did not hesitate to successfully explore the potential that the world offered him. He was a true blue Albinesi with roots planted in Bergamo but with a head for the wider world."
Franco Fassi leaves us today with a great legacy of identifying values, which he was very keen on. "We have always remained faithful to our history. We have grown, we have always accepted new challenges, we have never stopped or been satisfied".
We would like to remember him with these words of his, which reveal his style, his way of understanding life, work - which was the very reason for his life - more than anything, and to look to the future with great confidence.”