Iacocca was one of the greatest auto executives around.
The Ford Mustang. Dodge Caravan. Jeep, as we know it today. All of these came about with one of the auto industry legends, Lee Iacocca. Sadly, he passed away this morning at his home in Los Angeles, California, but not before leaving behind one hell of a legacy over his four-decade career.
Iacocca was born in 1924 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and originally started on an engineering track. He got into the automotive industry in 1946, when he joined on as an engineering trainee at Ford. From there, he eventually moved on to sales and marketing, where his career flourished. In 1960, he became vice president and general manager of the whole Ford division.
It was here he oversaw the design of one of the most iconic cars in history: the Ford Mustang. After that, he ended up becoming President of Ford Motor Company in 1970. While that is a serious feather in any auto executive’s cap, his tenure at Ford ultimately succumbed to the fallout from one of the company’s most controversial cars. After being the driving force — pardon the pun — behind the Pinto, Ford sacked Iacocca in 1978 after the fallout from the car’s fuel tank fire issue.
Iacocca at Chrysler
From there, Chrysler courted Iacocca, at a time when the company looked to be on the verge of death. He took the reins and started rebuilding the company from the ground up. He even starred in commercials like the one below, as Jalopnik points out, where he said this: “I have one and only one ambition for Chrysler: To be the best. What else is there?”
And that sort of sums it up, really. He oversaw hugely successful projects lik e the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager. Then there was the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon, as well as all of Chrysler’s K-cars. Love them or hate them, they were commercially successful, and Iacocca quickly turned the company around, including paying off government-backed loans seven years earlier than expected.
Before his retirement in 1992, Iacocca oversaw Chrysler’s acquisition of AMC in 1987, which brought Jeep under the company’s wing. By that time, Jeep had largely finished work on what would be the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was exactly what Iacocca wanted. Even today, the Grand Cherokee name is a force to be reckoned with among SUVs, and is one of Fiat Chrysler’s best-selling cars.
Iacocca was also a force to be reckoned with in the industry. After his retirement from Chrysler, he sporadically worked with the company, as well as headed up the Iacocca Foundation, which raised funds for diabetes research after his wife died from the disease.
He will certainly be missed, and he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest auto industry executives of them all.