Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Iacocca, Lee

Lido “Lee” Iacocca is a former automotive executive, best known for leading the Chrysler Corporation through financial difficulties in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Iacocca was born on October 15, 1924 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Italian immigrant parents. He was instilled with business acumen from his father. He attempted to enlist in the military during the World War II but was rejected due to a case of rheumatic fever in his teen years. He earned engineering degrees from Lehigh University and Princeton University.

Iacocca began his career in the automotive industry immediately following school, as an engineering trainee with the Ford Motor Company in 1946. After switching from engineering to the sales and marketing department at Ford, he quickly rose within the company. By 1960, Iacocca was a vice-president and general manager of Ford car and truck group. He became an executive vice-president in 1967, and president of Ford Motor Company in 1970. Iacocca and his staff launched the Ford Mustang in 1964, which set a first-year sales record. Conversely, the ill-fated Ford Pinto was released during his time as president.

In 1978, Iacocca was asked to leave Ford due to personal disputes with Chairman Henry Ford II. Soon afterward, he was hired as president of Chrysler Corporation, which was struggling financially. During his tenure, the company became profitable through his strategy of salary cuts, layoffs, and plant closures, but most notably through intervention from the U.S. Government in the form of loan guarantees of $1.5 billion. Two vehicles released at this time, the K-car and minivan, also contributed to this success. Chrysler was able to recover and pay back the loan with interest ahead of schedule.

Iacocca retired from Chrysler in 1992 but continued to work with the company in an advisory capacity for several years.



Photo showing Lee Iacocca (left) and Douglass Fraser, 1979 - 2012.044.586

Lee Iacocca (right) signs agreement with UAW, 1979 - 2012.044.580

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