Praise words such as “larger than life,” “titan of industry,” and “one of a kind,” have reverberated through the internet since news of Lee Iacocca’s death broke Tuesday night. The father of the Ford Mustang and savior of Chrysler corporation passed away at his home in Bel-Air, California at the age of 94 years old. And as a result, the automotive community and beyond has responded.
The world-famous executive’s level of popularity and respect once rivaled that of President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. The Pennsylvania native was known for being a no-bullshit kind of guy and for embarking on a never-ending quest for perfection early on in his career. Because of this, Iacocca earned the admiration of many, but also the jealousy and disapproval of others—something which, as he always did—voiced loud and clear to the press or in his self-titled autobiography.
Ford Motor Company
Iacocca became CEO of the Blue Oval in 1970 and is mostly known for spearheading the Ford Mustang project. Despite his largely successful 32-year run in Dearborn, his ties to the dangerous Ford Pinto resulted in him being booted from the company by Henry Ford II in 1978. He later on referred to Ford II as “95 percent jerk.”
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)
The brand powerhouse that is FCA simply wouldn’t exist without Iacocca’s saving of Chrysler in the ’80s, when he introduced the K-Car platform after receiving a $1.5-billion bailout from the Federal Government. Much to Iacocca’s perfectionist attitude, the loan was paid in full seven years early.
“The Company is saddened by the news of Lee Iacocca’s passing. He played a historic role in steering Chrysler through crisis and making it a true competitive force,” read an official statement released by FCA. “He was one of the great leaders of our company and the auto industry as a whole. He also played a profound and tireless role on the national stage as a business statesman and philanthropist.”
“Lee gave us a mindset that still drives us today – one that is characterized by hard work, dedication and grit. We are committed to ensuring that Chrysler, now FCA, is such a company, an example of commitment and respect, known for excellence as well as for its contribution to society. His legacy is the resiliency and unshakeable faith in the future that live on in the men and women of FCA who strive every day to live up to the high standards he set.”
Mary Barra, General Motors CEO
Iacocca never worked for General Motors, but rather against General Motors. His beloved Mustang was the Camaro’s biggest rival and his time at Chrysler resulted in many of GM’s competition flourishing across the country and even the world. Despite the rivalry, GM CEO Mary Barra knows how much he contributed to the industry in general.
How is Iacocca related to the famous Italian supercar builder? During his time at the helm of Chrysler Lamborghini was briefly owned by the American automaker, and as a result, Iacocca got to unveil the famous Lamborghini Diablo. Fun fact: he did so with the Dodge Stealth sharing the spotlight as this video shows.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Iacocca enjoyed driving—and driving fast. There isn’t a better place to drive fast than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where some of the products he approved as CEO of Ford were put to the test. Below is a photo of Iacocca and motor racing legend Jim Clark admiring one of Ford’s newest engines.
Andy Palmer, Aston Martin CEO
As a true visionary, Iacocca served as a role model to many of today’s executives in the automotive sector and other related and unrelated businesses. Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer is one of them.
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