ideas which did not reach the marketplace as Ford products. These included cars ultimatelyintroduced by Chrysler- the K car and the minivan. Eventually, he became the president of theFord Motor Company, but he clashed with Henry Ford II and ultimately, in 1978, was fired byFord, despite the company posting a $2 billion profit for the year.
Career at Chrysler
After being fired at Ford, Lee was aggressively courted by the Chrysler Corporation, which wason the verge of going out of business. At the time, the company was losing millions, largely dueto recalls of the company's Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare, cars that Iacocca would later claim should never have been built. Iacocca joined Chrysler and began rebuilding the entirecompany from the ground up, laying off many workers, selling the loss-making Chrysler Europedivision to Peugeot, and bringing in many former associates from his former company. Alsofrom Ford, Iacocca brought to Chrysler the "Mini-Max" project, which, in 1983, bore fruit in thewildly successful Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Henry Ford II had wanted nothing todo with the Mini-Max, a restyled version of the minivan that Toyota was selling in huge numbersin Asia and Latin America, which doomed the project at Ford. Hal Sperlich, the driving force behind the Mini-Max at Ford had been fired a few months before Iacocca and was waiting for him at Chrysler, where the two would make automotive history.Iacocca arrived shortly after the introduction of the subcompact Dodge Omni and PlymouthHorizon. The front-wheel drive Omni and Horizon became instant hits, selling over 300,000units each in their debut year, showing what was to come for Chrysler. Ironically, the Omni andHorizon had been designed alongside the Chrysler Horizon with much input from the Chrysler Europe division of the company, which Iacocca axed in 1978.
1979 Auto Bailout
Realizing that the company would go out of business if it did not receive a significant amount of money to turn the company around, Iacocca approached the United States Congress in 1979 andasked for a loan guarantee. While some have said that Congress lent Chrysler the money, thegovernment, in fact, only guaranteed the loans. Most observers thought this was anunprecedented move, but Iacocca pointed to the government bailouts of the airline and railroadindustries, arguing that more jobs were at stake in Chrysler's possible demise. In the end, thoughthe decision was controversial, Iacocca received the loan guarantee from the government.After receiving this reprieve, Chrysler released the first of the K-Car line, the Dodge Aries andPlymouth Reliant, in 1981. Like the minivan which would come later, these compactautomobiles were based on design proposals that Ford had rejected during Iacocca's tenure there.Since they were released in the middle of the major 1980-1982 recession, these small, efficientand inexpensive, front-wheel drive cars sold rapidly.