President, Ford Motor
President, Chrysler Corporation: 1978-1992
It seems Lee Iacocca was predestined to work with transportation in
some form or another. When he was 10, he had already determined that there
was money to be made in the transportation business. He would take his
little wagon down to the local grocery store and offer to pull their
groceries home, knowing the urge to tip would be irresistible.
Always imaginative, years later when he went to work for Ford as an
engineer, his heart was in sales, and he took that opportunity to push his
product. Then later at Chrysler, when the going got tough and bankruptcy
loomed, Iacocca went before Congress and asked, in essence, to be bailed
out. Ask and you shall receive, he did, and Chrysler was saved.
Lido (Lee) Anthony Iacocca was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania on
October 15, 1924. His parents, Nicola and Antoinette, were Italian
immigrants who succeeded in business, despite the Great Depression.
Nicola was somewhat of an entrepreneur, operating businesses as diverse
as car-rentals and restaurants. These lessons were picked up early by Lee,
who at 10, went to work with his aforementioned "wagon" business.
Continuing to work all through high school, Lee finally entered college at
Lehigh University, graduating in 1945. Just one year later, Iacocca
earned his master's in engineering from Princeton and immediately went
to work for Ford Motor Company.
Iacocca became disillusioned with the job of an engineer, and decided
to change his focus to sales. With that background however, he was able to
introduce many a unique perspective, and his career at Ford began to
soar. When the then President of Ford, Robert McNamara, was recruited by
President John F. Kennedy to become his Secretary of Defense, Iacocca
was promoted to General Manager. Here, he began to influence the selection
and styling of the Ford line throughout the next decade and an extremely
impressive job he did. Iaccoca was responsible for the design and
introduction of the Mustang, the Mercury Cougar and the
Lincoln Mark III. Surprising to no one, Iacocca became President of Ford
Motor Company, but it was quite a surprise, when he was forced to leave
the company after a dispute with Henry Ford II. But like his father, who
recovered financially after the depression, Lee Iaccoca would recover
Spotting a hot property, Chrysler "drafted" Iacocca and offered him the
presidency of their company. Iacocca agreed and almost immediately, with the aid of the U.S. Congress,and a $1.5 billion loan from them, secured another 2 billion dollars in capital and in 1981, Chrysler reported a small profit. Iacocca's next move was the introduction of the K-car, a small, inexpensive, front wheel drive vehicle that was very successful, at least as far as sales went (Iacocca still has the last K-car to come off the assembly line). Next came the Chrysler minivan, another huge success, even to this day. Thanks to these two innovative introductions, Chrysler turned the corner and shortly there after, repaid the government the remainder of its loan. Iacocca forged ahead with the acquisition of AMC, which put the always popular Jeep products under the expanding Chrysler tent. In 1992, Lee Iacocca retired from Chrysler, but no moss would grow under his feet.
The trick is to make sure you don't die waiting for prosperity to come.
Iacocca is currently chairman and CEO of EVO Global Motors, which produces variations on a theme of electric bicycles. He also chairs a diabetes foundation and sponsors a company, Olivia Premium, which produces a spread made from canola and olive oils and is run by his son-in-law. He is the author of two books; Iacocca: An Autobiography (1984) and Talking Straight (1988).