Lee Iaccoca (1924-2019)

Lee Iacocca, the car industry legend who created the iconic Ford Mustang and saved Chrysler from bankruptcy, has died at the age of 94.

He died at his home in Los Angeles from complications from Parkinson’s disease, a family spokeswoman told US media.

Born on October 15, 1924, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Iacocca was the son of Italian immigrant parents — his father being a hot dog vendor.

Born to Italian immigrant parents in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1924, Mr Iacocca began his career as an engineer at the Ford Motor Company in 1946, before later moving into sales.

In his 32-year career at Ford and then Chrysler, Iacocca helped launch some of Detroit’s best-selling and most significant vehicles such as the minivan, the Chrysler K-cars and the Ford Escort.

In 1964 he designed and launched the Ford Mustang, which was an instant success in its first year, selling over 419,000 models. The car became one of the most iconic cars in America

Lee Iacocca designed and launched the iconic Ford Mustang in 1965

However, he was fired by the company in 1978 after he was accused of plotting to oust Chairman Henry Ford II and take over his position.

But a year later, in 1979, Iacocca took over Chrysler Corporation. The company was on the brink of collapsing, and so he led it through a strict restructuring process that included taking a $1.5 billion government bailout.

Iacocca famously accepted a salary of just $1 a year while the company was recovering.

The company after seeing its share of ups and downs became profitable again in 1992, but Iacocca quit that year.

Iacocca was married three times. His first wife, Mary, died of diabetes in 1983 – something that prompted him to open a family foundation to fight the condition

Among other things, Iacocca is also remembered for his appearances in Chrysler ads in the US, when he told the viewers: “If you find a better car, buy it!”

Iaccoca behind the wheel of Plymouth Reliant (K car) at the Jefferson Avenue plant in Detroit – 1980

The Chrysler company, in a statement, said it was “saddened” by the news of his death.

“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,” said the automobile company now known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

“Lee gave us a mindset that still drives us today – one that is characterised by hard work, dedication and grit,” the company said.


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