On July 2, 2019, legendary auto industry icon Lee Iacocca passed away at his home in Bel Air, California. He was 94 years old.
Originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Iacocca was born on October, 15, 1924, and began working in the auto industry in 1946. After earning his masters degree at Princeton, Ford originally hired him as an engineering trainee, however, by 1972, Iacocca was named as the company’s president.
As it turned out, Iacocca was bored by the intricacies of the engineering aspect of cars, and convinced the executives at Ford that he should be in sales. By 1960, he was head of the car and truck sales, and later that year, was named as the department’s vice president, where Iacocca and his team member developed a car to appeal to younger drivers: the Ford Mustang.
Accord to the Detroit Free Press, during the Mustang’s first sales weekend, a record 4 million people visited Ford’s dealerships. By using the transmission, axle, and engine from the Falcon, Iacocca helped developed the iconic sleek new body for the Mustang, and presented it to market in 1964 at a base price of just $2,368. After one year, the new model broke the U.S. record by selling 418,812 cars.
Iacocca left an indelible mark with Ford by creating both the Mustang and the Pinto. However, after eight years as Ford’s President, he was fired by Henry Ford Jr. on July, 13, 1978, and eventually exiled him from the company’s headquarters in Dearborn. When Ford was asked why he fired Iacocca he responded, “It’s personal, and I can’t tell you any more. It’s just one of those things.”
Afterward, Iacocca moved to work for Ford’s rival company, Chrysler, who at the time, was on the brink of failure. Iacocca saved Chrysler was bankruptcy, and is responsible for launching company’s K-car. Along with former colleague Hal Sperlich, who joined him at Chrysler, Iacocca also helped developed the minivan. As CEO and Chairman of Chrysler Corp., he famously coined the phrase, “If you can find a better car, buy it.”
Iacocca was married three times, and had two children, Lia and Kathryn.