The ASTRA Automobile & Waggon Factory in Arad, Romania, was between 1891-1918 an Austro-Hungarian manufacturer of vehicles (as Johann Weitzer’sche Maschinen-Waggonfabrik), and between 1921-1998 a Romanian manufacturer of railroad cars (as ASTRA Arad). After 1998, the company split into two main independent companies, one for freight cars, integrated later in Astra Rail Industries, and one for passenger coaches, as Astra Vagoane Călători.
Johann Weitzer (born in 1832, died in 1902) was an Austrian skilled blacksmith and businessman. In 1854, he founded his own workshop, which expanded quickly, even producing vehicles for the construction of the Suez Canal. The main products were railway waggons and arms for Austrian use. In 1872, he transformed his enterprise into a joint-stock company, which later merged with two other companies to Simmering-Graz-Pauker.
In 1891, Johann Weitzer founded, as a subsidiary of the Austrian company in the Hungarian part of Austria-Hungary, the Johann Weitzer’sche Maschinen-Waggonfabrik und Eisengiesserei Actien-Gesellschaft (John Weitzer Engine- & Waggon-building & Iron Casting Joint-stock Company). It produced locomotives, railway waggons, tramcars (such as 17 items for Temesvár/Timișoara), and, since 1903, Weitzer railmotor, Europe's first successful series of railcars.
The automobiles manufactured in Arad was a licensed production of Westinghouse 150 cars from 1909 to 1912. In 1912 the plant was taken over by Austro-Daimler and renamed to MARTA, the acronym for Magyar Automobil Részvény Társaság Arad (Hungarian Automobile Joint-stock Company Arad). After the edition auf 500 automobiles, civil production ceased in 1914, due to World War I.
In 1921, after the dissolution of the Austria-Hungary and the Union of Transylvania with Romania, the two companies, now located in Romania, merged to form ASTRA Automobile & Waggon factory (Romanian: Fabrica de automobile și vagoane Astra). This company from 1922 to 1926 also manufactured some automobiles and lorries, but the main production were rail vehicles.
After World War II, the company was nationalized and became Europe's biggest manufacturer of freight cars, as Întreprinderea de Vagoane Arad (IVA). The factory also produced passenger coaches and ensured the entire fleet of coaches for Bucharest Metro. It produced railcars for internal market and exported to all five continents.
In 1990, the company was renamed as ASTRA Vagoane Arad. With privatization, in 1998-2000, it was split into specialists for the various branches. The production of freight cars, Astra Vagoane Arad, was sold to Trinity Industries, which sold it to International Railway Systems (IRS), seated in Luxemburg, but mainly based on plants in eastern Europe. In November 2010, Astra Vagoane Arad and the two other Romanian subsidiaries of IRS went bankrupt, and reformed under the name Astra Rail Industries (ARI) in 2012. In 2016, The Greenbrier Companies and ARI agreed to form a joint venture, 75% owned by Greenbrier. The new business is to be named Greenbrier-Astra Rail.
The other descenders of ASTRA Arad are Astra Vagoane Călători (Astra Passenger Cars) and Astra Bus.