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Lee Iacocca

Lee Iacocca

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Published by: Arslan on Jan 11, 2011
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LEE IACOCCA
Early life
Iacocca was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania to Nicola Iacocca and Antonietta Perrotta, Italianimmigrants who had settled in Pennsylvania's steel making belt and operated the restaurant,Yocco's Hot Dogs. It was reported that he was given the unusual name "Lido" because he wasconceived during his parents' honeymoon in the Lido district in Venice (although this is a rumour only as he himself states in his autobiography that his father went to Lido long before hismarriage and not for his honeymoon).Iacocca graduated from Allentown High School (now known as William Allen High School) in1942, and Lehigh University in neighboring Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in industrialengineering. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and an alumnus of Theta Chi Fraternity.After graduating from Lehigh, he won the Wallace Memorial Fellowship and went to PrincetonUniversity, where he took his electives in politics and plastics. He then began a career at the FordMotor Company as an engineer. Eventually dissatisfied with that job, he switched career paths atFord, entering the company's sales force. He was very successful in sales, and he moved upthrough the ranks of Ford, moving ultimately to product development.Iacocca was married to Mary McCleary in 1956. Mary Iacocca died in 1983 after a decades-longstruggle with diabetes. Both before and after her death, Iacocca became a strong advocate for  better medical treatment of diabetes patients, who frequently faced debilitating and fatalcomplications. Iacocca married his second wife Peggy Johnson on April 17, 1986 but in 1987,after nineteen months, Iacocca had the marriage annulled. He married a third wife, Darrien Earle,in 1991. They were divorced three years later, in 1994. He has two daughters: Kathryn and Lia.
Career at Ford
Iacocca joined Ford Motor Company in 1946 and after a brief stint in engineering, he asked to bemoved to sales and marketing, where his career flourished. While working in the Philadelphiadistrict as assistant sales manager, Iacocca gained national recognition with his "56 for '56"campaign, offering loans on 1956 model year cars with a 20% down payment and $56 inmonthly payments for three years. His campaign went national and Iacocca was called toDearborn, where he quickly moved through the ranks. In 1960 Iacocca was named Ford's vice- president, car and truck group; in 1967, executive vice-president; and in 1970-1978, president.Iacocca was involved with the design of several successful Ford automobiles, most notably theFord Mustang, the Lincoln Continental Mark III, the Ford Festiva and the revival of the Mercury brand in the late 1960s, including the introduction of the Mercury Cougar and Mercury Marquis.He was also the "moving force," as one court put it, behind the Ford Pinto. He promoted other 
 
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.
 
Aside from small cars he re-introduced the big Imperial as a company's flagship, new model hadall of the newest technologies of the time - including fully electronic fuel injection (the first car in the U.S. to be so equipped) and all digital dashboard.Chrysler introduced the minivan, which was by and large Sperlich's "baby," in the fall of 1983,which led the automobile industry in sales for 25 years Because of the K-cars and minivans,along with the reforms Iacocca implemented, the company turned around quickly and was ableto repay the government-backed loans seven years earlier than expected.Iacocca was also responsible for Chrysler's acquisition of AMC in 1987, which brought the profitable Jeep division under Chrysler's corporate umbrella. It also created the short-lived Eagledivision, formed from the remnants of AMC. By this time, AMC had already finished most of the work with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which Iacocca desperately wanted. The Grand Cherokeewould not be released until 1992 for the 1993 model year, the same year that Iacocca retired.Throughout the 1980s, Iacocca appeared in a series of commercials for the company's vehicles,using the ad campaign "The pride is back" to denote the turnaround of the corporation, while alsotelling buyers a phrase that later became his trademark: "If you can find a better car, buy it."The final portion of the book, titled "Straight Talk", consists of rhetoric arguing for legislationcompelling Americans to wear seatbelts, the high cost of labor, the Japanese challenge, andmaking America great again.
Other work and activities
In May 1982, Ronald Reagan appointed Iacocca to head the Statue of Liberty-Ellis IslandFoundation, which was created to raise funds for the renovation and preservation of the Statue of Liberty. He continues to serve on the board of the foundation.In 1984, Iacocca co-authored (with William Novak) his autobiography, titled Iacocca: AnAutobiography. A very popular book, it was the best selling non-fiction hardback book of 1984and 1985. The proceeds of the book's sales benefited diabetes research.In 1988, Iacocca co-authored (with Sonny Kleinfeld) Talking Straight, a book meant as acounter-balance to Akio Morita's Made in Japan, a non-fiction book praising Japan's post-war hard-working culture. Talking Straight praised the innovation and creativity of Americans.

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