Lee Iacocca, the legendary automotive executive, who is known for saving Chrysler from bankruptcy in the 1980s, passed away July 2 at the age of 94. With a career of more than 30 years under his belt, Iacocca helped to launch some of Detroit’s best-selling vehicles, which include the minivan, the Ford Mustang, the Escort and the Chrysler K-cars. Iacocca also spoke out against what he considered was an unfair trade practice by the Japanese automakers.
During the peak of his popularity, which was in the ’80s, he was known for his TV ads and the catchy tagline: “If you can find a better car, buy it!” Iacocca wrote two best-selling books and was courted as a presidential candidate. One of his books is ‘Where Have All The Leaders Gone?’ which was published in 2007.
In 1979, Chrysler was $5 billion in debt. The reason behind the debt was that it had bloated the manufacturing system and “it was turning out gas-guzzlers that the public didn’t want,” according to foxbusiness.com. However, he had a plan when banks turned him down, Iacocca and the United Auto Workers union helped to persuade the government to approve $1.5 billion in loan guarantees that kept the No. 3 domestic automaker afloat.
Iacocca closed or consolidated 20 plants, laid off thousands of workers and introduced new cars. In TV commercials, he admitted Chrysler’s mistakes. However, he insisted that the company had changed. Iacocca introduced the minivan and created a new market.
Iacocca’s fame first came from the debut of the Mustang in 1964. He convinced his superiors that Ford needed an affordable, stylish coupe to take advantage of the growing youth market. On April 17, 1964, Lee Iacocca and Henry Ford II unveiled the Ford Mustang at the New York World’s Fair.
In 1970, Iacocca was named Ford president. Iacocca immediately undertook a re-establishing to cut costs as the company continued to struggle with the foreign competition and the rising gas prices. “Lee Iacocca was truly bigger than life, and he left an indelible mark on Ford, the auto industry and our country,” said Bill Ford, Chairman of Ford Motor upon Iacocca’s passing. Lee played a central role in the creation of Mustang. On a personal note, I will always appreciate how encouraging he was to me at the beginning of my career. He was one of a kind and will be dearly missed.”
Photo Credit: WHNT.com