Auto executive and master pitchman who put the Mustang in Ford’s lineup in 1960, Lee Iacocca passed away at the age of 94 in Bel Air, California. Former Chrysler executives and his colleagues, Bud Liebler and Bob Lutz said they were informed of the death by Iacocca’s close associate.
His 32-year career at Ford and Chrysler helped him launch some of Detroit’s best-selling and most significant vehicles, including the minivan, The Chrysler K-cars and the Ford Escort. He also spoke against what he considered unfair trade practices by Japanese automakers.
As compared to others, Iacocca reached the level of celebrity matched by a few auto moguls. During the peak of his popularity in the 80s, he was famous for his TV ads and catchy taglines like ‘If you can find a better car, buy it’. He also penned two best-selling books and was courted as a potential presidential candidate.
The automobile sensation will be best remembered as the blunt-talking, cigar-chomping Chrysler chief who helped engineer a great corporate turnaround.
His former colleagues said Iacocca had a larger-than-life presence that commanded attention and that he was a leader. In recent years, he was battling Parkinson’s disease, but nobody was sure of the real cause of his death.
Liebler, who worked with Iacocca for more than a decade said he was the last of an era of brash, charismatic executives who could yield results and added that Lee made money without failing to deliver the promises he made.
In 1979, Chrysler was floundering in $5 billion of debt and had a bloated manufacturing system that was turning out gas-guzzlers that the public didn’t want. And when the banks turned him down, Iacocca and the United Auto Workers union helped persuade the government to approve $1.5 billion in loan guaranteed that kept the no.3 domestic automaker afloat.