Management wizard, celebrated author and auto industry icon Lee Iacocca, credited with rescuing Chrysler from near-bankruptcy in the 1980s, passed away on Tuesday. He was 94.
Iacocca was widely reckoned as instrumental in the creation of Ford Mustang GT (Grand Tourisimo) and the Chrysler minivan. Both models went on to rule the roads of the US and elsewhere for many years. Iacocca's youngest daughter confirmed he passed away of natural causes on Tuesday. He is survived by two daughters and eight grandchildren, according to the report.
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 and author several iconic management books.
Iacocca started working at Ford Motor Company in 1946 and was credited with being the father of Ford Mustang. He was named the president of Ford in 1970 but was fired by Henry Ford Jr in 1978, according to a report in the CNN International website. "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!'"
Iacocca was then hired by Ford's rival Chrysler Corp in 1978 and became the company's CEO in 1979. He is widely credited with saving the company from bankruptcy. The bailout model that Iacocca proposed for Chrysler is considered path-breaking. The company that was hit was two back-to-back recessions in the 1980s got a Treasury Department to guarantee for $1.5 billion in bank loans. Chrysler repaid the loans early and the 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, CNN writes. Iacocca led Chrysler during an era in which Asian and European imports first started to make inroads into US automakers' market share. The American consumer may remember him best from a series of Chrysler TV commercials, in which he said, "if you can find a better car, buy it".
Iacocca, who retired from Chrysler in 1992, was locked in a legal battle with the company in 1995 over exercising stock options. Chrysler and Iacocca settled their lawsuits in 1996. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said in a statement that it was saddened by the news of Iacocca's passing. "He played a historic role in steering Chrysler through the crisis and making it a truly competitive force," FCA said in a statement. Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, said Iacocca was "truly bigger than life and he left an indelible mark on Ford."