CNN is reporting today that auto industry icon Lee Iacocca has died. He was 94. He is credited as having played a major role in the creation of the Ford Mustang and the Chrysler minivan. As someone who has driven Ford Mustangs since the early 2000’s, I am grateful for his inventions.
The article reports:
Born Lido Anthony Iacocca in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on October 15, 1924, to Italian immigrant parents, he would go on to lead two major American car companies.
Iacocca started working at Ford Motor Company in 1946, and was a major figure in the development of the Ford Mustang — the first vehicle of its kind. He was named president of Ford in 1970, but was fired by Henry Ford Jr. in 1978.
“I began my life as the son of immigrants, and I worked my way up to the presidency of the Ford Motor Company,” Iacocca wrote in his 1984 autobiography. “When I finally got there, I was on top of the world. But then fate said to me: ‘Wait. We’re not finished with you. Now you’re going to find out what it feels like to get kicked off Mt. Everest!'”
He was then hired by Chrysler Corp. in 1978 and became the company’s CEO in 1979. He is credited with saving the company from bankruptcy.
Iacocca urged Congress to authorize the Treasury Department to guarantee $1.5 billion in bank loans for Chrysler. Chrysler needed the bailout to survive back to back recessions in the early 1980s. Chrysler repaid the loans early. Treasury made money on the stock it received as part of bailout packages.
With the help of more fuel efficient and competitive products such as the so-called K-cars — which included the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant — Chrysler became strong and profitable again.
Iacocca led Chrysler during an era in which Asian and European imports first started to take a significant share of the US automakers’ portion of the American car market.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, my husband was commuting 50 miles to work each way. We owned a significant number of K-cars during that time. I hope Lee Iacocca is spending his time in heaven designing a new breed of sports cars for angels to take for a spin!
He was truly an American success story.