Historic Chrysler CEO, who helped turn the company around in the 1980s, not to mention the mastermind behind Ford’s iconic Mustang model, plus the Chrysler minivan, died this past week in his Bel Air, California home at the age of 94 due to Parkinson’s disease complications.
In a statement, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) paid a beautiful tribute to their former head honcho by relaying that Iacocca was of the “great leaders” of their company and auto sector alike, who played a vital role within the national stage as both a philanthropist and businessman. They would go on to note that Iacocca gave the company the mindset that still drives them to this very day: one that is shaped by grit, hard work, and dedication.
Lee Iacocca’s competitive spirit and optimism helped to renew Chrysler in the early 1980s and Detroit’s fortune, when the auto market in America was declining due to gas prices, rising Japanese imports, and inflation. Longtime Ford executive and later Chrysler Vice Chairman, the late Ben Bidwell once stated that the most amazing aspect about Lee was that he never gave up.
Iacocca was dubbed “Detroit’s comeback kid” in 1983, when he graced the March Time cover that year. Then, a couple of years later Iacocca ranked third (behind Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan) in a Gallup Poll conducted in 1985 as the person Americans most admired; the following year, he would hit the second spot of that same poll, between Regan and the Pope.
Iacocca’s was also behind the risky gamble at Ford in 1964, when the Mustang was introduced to the auto industry, and with its sleek style and low price tag it was an instant success, giving a new generation of young adults in the U.S. yet another reason to adore Detroit autos; and it placed Lee on the map at Ford. His second auto home run was the minivan in the 1980s, becoming one of the most profitable consumer products ever developed, and created a wave of auto copycats, also helping Chrysler rack up in the billions when it comes to sales, for decades now.
Autonews reported that Lee Iacocca left a huge imprint on the auto industry, and will be missed incredibly by colleagues within the sector, fans, and of course, friends and family.