Lee Iacocca was a salesman first and foremost. Yes, he sold Fords, Chryslers, and various other automobiles to the American people, but he also sold himself. He sold himself to the people as the savior of the automotive industry, and at the time he was.
Iacocca embodied capitalism at its very core and was determined in his actions to always succeed, which led him to become part of some of the most formative events in the 20th-century automotive world. His life story is one filled with trials and tribulations but often led to massive success and recognition on his part, which is all rightfully deserved. Iacocca truly helped shape what generations of Americans drove, and the resonance of his effects can still be felt through the American auto industry even today. Sadly, he passed away on July 2nd, 2019, leaving his impressive legacy behind for the world to remember. Listed here are ten of the most impressive elements of his career.
10 He Was Designing From His First Day At Ford
Iacocca was hired directly out of college to work as an engineer for Ford, but denied it initially to return to school at Princeton University and earn his master's degree. After doing that, he returned home and began work for the Ford Motor Company, developing from his first day on the job.
Within the first few hours of being on the job, Iacocca designed a functioning clutch spring for use in Ford automobiles. Although this seemed to be a small step, and even the man himself regarded it as such, it was integral in his development in the auto industry.
9 He Helped Sell The Mustang To The American Public
Perhaps one of the most iconic motor cars to come out of the United States ever, the original Mustang was developed to be a sports car for the normal assembly plant. A performance model that could be built in line as easily as any other Ford product, sharing similar materials and parts, and could thus be sold as a relatively affordable sports car.
Iacocca was instrumental in the marketing and sales procedures surrounding the rollout of the initial Mustang. His visionary approaches to car sales were key in bringing the Mustang to a wide audience and laying the groundwork for the cult following it enjoys today nearly 60 years later.
8 He Conjured Up The Lincoln Continental Mark III
Another iconic vehicle of the time was the Lincoln Continental. Lincoln, being a subsidiary of Ford motor company, was indirectly helmed by Iacocca and his men, and thus he aided in marketing and bringing to fruition the Continental Mark III.
7 Marketed The Granada, Aiming For The Luxury Market
In what is regarded as one of the greatest luxury moves by an American manufacturer of the 20th century, the 1975 Granada was unveiled, a blatant Mercedes rip-off that filled that exact void, offering the look of such a car at the price point of a Ford model.
Although this may be considered reappropriation of ideas, Iacocca was instrumental in this thought process that is commonly practiced in lower-priced cars today, utilizing higher-tier design cues at a lower premium.
6 Launching The Fiesta
Another milestone in Iacocca's career was his ultra-successful European launch of the Ford Fiesta, a small, front-wheel-drive vehicle that can maneuver itself virtually anywhere.
The concept was simple, work in conjunction with Honda for the parts necessary for such a small car and then put it into mass production, and it worked swimmingly. The Fiesta is a bestselling compact car model internationally to this day, and models such as the ST trim allow for the tiny car to take on a sporting identity of its own as well.
5 He Convinced The Government To Save Chrysler
In perhaps what is one of the first bids for massive government assistance to an automotive manufacturer, Iacocca led the charge to convince the United States government to bail out the then-flailing Chrysler automotive company. Iacocca came into the position at the company at a very rough patch in its existence, where profits were hemorrhaging and the end was seemingly near. He managed to revitalize the company and give it the foothold it needed to succeed even to this day.
4 Helped Introduce The Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager To American Families
Nowadays, it's hard to drive down the road without seeing a minivan of some sort carrying around a mid to large sized family. Prior to Iacocca's intervention, however, this was not a common sight. Station wagons and other family caravan-type vehicles existed, but the modern minivan configuration did not. Iacocca helped bring that to the spotlight by pushing the new Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager models to the market, making the minivan sales arena a huge one. The Caravan is still produced today.
3 Acquired Jeep In 1987 And Helped Make It Profitable
Prior to 1987, Jeep was owned by AMC, the now-defunct automotive company.
Under Iacocca's direction, AMC was bought out and Jeep was folded into his company, where it was then sought to make it even more profitable. Today, Jeep's products are some of the most best-selling in the nation.
2 Wrote A Bestselling Novel About His Tenure In The Automotive Industry
After contributing so much to the overall history of 20th-century automobiles, Iacocca decided to pen a novel. His 1984 autobiography did so well that it became a New York Times's best-selling book as a hardcover in the nonfiction department. And this didn't only happen once, it happened again in 1985! Selling over two million copies, they started selling paperback versions as well.
1 Elevated His Status Into The First Real Celebrity CEO
Through these elements of his life and more, Iacocca truly elevated himself to the status of "celebrity CEO," a title not yet penned by anybody else in business really, as nobody had truly used their CEO status to capitalize on fame as well prior to him.
Of course, this wasn't done with malintent either, as Iacocca's written work is chock full of information for those looking to get ahead in business, the automotive world, or just in life. He was a great man and will truly be missed.