One of the most legendary automotive executives has died. Lee Iacocca was part of some of the most important vehicles of the second half of the twentieth century. Credited with the invention of the Ford Mustang and with rescuing Chrysler in the 1980s, he was 94.
Iacocca started his career with Ford in 1946. He quickly moved from engineering to sales and marketing. By 1960 he was in charge of the Ford division and was named president of Ford Motor Company in 1970. During his career there, he was central in the creation of the original Ford Mustang, as well as the Continental Mark III.
"Lee Iacocca was truly bigger than life and he left an indelible mark on Ford, the auto industry and our country," said Ford Executive Chair Bill Ford. "Lee played a central role in the creation of Mustang. On a personal note, I will always appreciate how encouraging he was to me at the beginning of my career. He was one of a kind and will be dearly missed.”
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After being fired by Ford in 1978, Iacocca moved to Chrysler Corporation. The automaker was near bankruptcy. He brought with him the idea for what would become the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager minivans. He also secured the US government loan guarantees that helped finance the K-Car line, both of which are generally cited as saving the company in the early 1980s.
Iacocca served on the board of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation since the 1980s, helping to raise money to restore the statue and island park.
"He played a historic role in steering Chrysler through crisis and making it a true competitive force," said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in a statement. "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."