The man who played a pivotal role in the creation of the Ford Mustang is no longer with us. Lee Iacocca died aged 94 in Bel Air, California, following complications related to Parkinson’s disease.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1924, Iacocca leaves behind an extraordinary legacy. He starting working at the Ford Motor Company in 1946, going on to become vice president and general manager of Ford Division in 1960, his famous 1956 ‘56 for 56’ sales campaign being a big factor in his climb up the corporate ladder.
Iacocca was the champion for a small budget project which would eventually give birth to the Mustang. Without this high profile support, it might never have happened.
His tenure at Ford ended dramatically in 1978 when he was fired by Henry Ford II, prompting a move to ailing giant Chrysler. Iacocca managed to keep the company from going bust by persuading the United States Congress to agree to a $1.5 billion federal loan. Controversial at the time, but it did the trick.
A dramatic turnaround saw the company making a $2.4 billion profit in 1984, and effectively pioneering the minivan. It wasn’t all straightforward, of course. In the twilight years of his career, Chrysler was struggling against Japanese rivals, with Iacocca eventually partnering with some rivals to counter falling sales. Under pressure to pass the baton on to someone new, he retired as Chrysler chairman and chief executive in 1992.
Ford executive chairman Bill Ford said in a statement:
“Lee Iacocca was truly bigger than life and he left an indelible mark on Ford, the auto industry and our country. 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.”
Fiat Chrysler said, meanwhile:
“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.”