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Early life Iacocca was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania to Nicola Iacocca and Antonietta Perrotta, Italian immigrants 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 was conceived 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 his marriage and not for his honeymoon). Iacocca graduated from Allentown High School (now known as William Allen High School) in 1942, and Lehigh University in neighboring Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in industrial engineering. 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 Princeton University, where he took his electives in politics and plastics. He then began a career at the Ford Motor Company as an engineer. Eventually dissatisfied with that job, he switched career paths at Ford, entering the company's sales force. He was very successful in sales, and he moved up through 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-long struggle 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 fatal complications. 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 be moved to sales and marketing, where his career flourished. While working in the Philadelphia district 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 in monthly payments for three years. His campaign went national and Iacocca was called to Dearborn, where he quickly moved through the ranks. In 1960 Iacocca was named Ford's vicepresident, 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 the Ford 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 ultimately introduced by Chrysler- the K car and the minivan. Eventually, he became the president of the Ford Motor Company, but he clashed with Henry Ford II and ultimately, in 1978, was fired by Ford, 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 was on the verge of going out of business. At the time, the company was losing millions, largely due to 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 entire company from the ground up, laying off many workers, selling the loss-making Chrysler Europe division to Peugeot, and bringing in many former associates from his former company. Also from Ford, Iacocca brought to Chrysler the "Mini-Max" project, which, in 1983, bore fruit in the wildly successful Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Henry Ford II had wanted nothing to do with the Mini-Max, a restyled version of the minivan that Toyota was selling in huge numbers in 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 Plymouth Horizon. The front-wheel drive Omni and Horizon became instant hits, selling over 300,000 units each in their debut year, showing what was to come for Chrysler. Ironically, the Omni and Horizon 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 and asked for a loan guarantee. While some have said that Congress lent Chrysler the money, the government, in fact, only guaranteed the loans. Most observers thought this was an unprecedented move, but Iacocca pointed to the government bailouts of the airline and railroad industries, arguing that more jobs were at stake in Chrysler's possible demise. In the end, though the 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 and Plymouth Reliant, in 1981. Like the minivan which would come later, these compact automobiles 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, efficient and inexpensive, front-wheel drive cars sold rapidly.
Aside from small cars he re-introduced the big Imperial as a company's flagship, new model had all 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 able to 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 Eagle division, 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 Cherokee would 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 also telling 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 legislation compelling Americans to wear seatbelts, the high cost of labor, the Japanese challenge, and making America great again. Other work and activities In May 1982, Ronald Reagan appointed Iacocca to head the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, 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: An Autobiography. A very popular book, it was the best selling non-fiction hardback book of 1984 and 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 a counter-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.
Quotes ³Management is nothing more than motivating other people.´ ³People want economy and they will pay any price to get it.´ ³The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.´ ³The trick is to make sure you don't die waiting for prosperity to come.´ ³I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.´
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