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Lee Iacocca


Chrysler’s First Savior


Words by Kay Burk

Lee Iacocca passed away July 2, 2019, at age 94. Lido Anthony Iacocca was born October 15, 1924, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Lehigh University in 1945 and a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Princeton in 1946.


After graduation, Iacocca joined Ford Motor Company as an engineering trainee. During his years with Ford he was most known as the father of the Mustang. He was fired by Henry Ford II in 1978.


But we’re concerned with his years at Chrysler, which began November of 1978 when he became CEO and Board Chairman. At the time Chrysler Corp. was headed towards bankruptcy. Iacocca went to Congress seeking help and negotiated for $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees. (Sound familiar?) It should be noted that Chrysler repaid the loans with interest in 1983, seven years ahead of schedule.

He was in charge during a time of great innovation. The “K” Cars were introduced in 1980 and Iacocca became the face of Chrysler, appearing in advertising featuring the slogan “If you can find a better car, buy it!”


Iacocca introduced Chrysler’s Minivan for the 1984 model year, an entirely new category of vehicle that remains popular today. He purchased American Motors from Renault in 1987, adding Jeep to the brand lineup.


He retired from the Chrysler Corporation in 1992, his legacy firmly established in automotive history.


In a statement Chrysler, now FCA, said, “The Company is saddened by the news of Lee Iacocca's passing. He played a historic role in steering Chrysler through crisis and making it a true competitive force. He was one of the great leaders of our company and the auto industry as a whole. He also played a profound and tireless role on the national stage as a business statesman and philanthropist.


“Lee gave us a mindset that still drives us today – one that is characterized by hard work, dedication and grit. We are committed to ensuring that Chrysler, now FCA, is such a company, an example of commitment and respect, known for excellence as well as for its contribution to society. His legacy is the resiliency and unshakeable faith in the future that live on in the men and women of FCA who strive every day to live up to the high standards he set.” 



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