There aren’t many larger names in the automotive world than Lee Iacocca, and he had a large part in shaping the landscape of the industry as we know it today. He passed away due to natural causes on Tuesday, July 2, 2019 at the age of 94.
While Iacocca entered the auto industry on the engineering side of the manufacturing equation working for Ford Motor Company, it didn’t take very long until he moved into the marketing side and began moving up the corporate ladder as well. Iacocca and his team struck gold when they created the Ford Mustang, and envisioning a horsepower war in the near future, Iacocca saw fit to have another icon of the industry, Carroll Shelby, give the little pony car some muscle!
After rising to the role of president of Ford Motor Company, Iacocca would go on to take over the Chrysler Corporation at a time when the company was in dire straits. He brought the Pentastar company back from the edge, first by working with the government to secure a loan, and then turning to restructure the company into a lean, mean, car-building machine.
During his time at Chrysler, Iacocca launched the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant K-cars that were top sellers. He followed this with an industry game changer, the Dodge Caravan and its sibling, the Plymouth Voyager. And while a minivan may not seem so glorious, the minivan concept created a huge shift in the industry as families moved away from the slow, smog-era station wagons into more accommodating, and more fuel efficient minivans. While those accomplishments were huge victories for any leader of an automotive manufacturer, we enthusiasts are mostly happy for Iacocca’s hand in bringing Carroll Shelby back into the automotive landscape through the turbocharged Shelby Chargers, Daytonas, GLHS, as well as the Dodge Viper.
Iacocca gambled again with Chrysler’s acquisition of American Motors, and the bet paid off as it brought the company the legendary Jeep brand into the fold, which now is easily one of the most popular brands the world over. Another part of Iacocca’s history is represented in the upcoming Ford v Ferrari movie, as The Walking Dead alum John Bernthal portrays Iacocca who recruits Carroll Shelby to help Ford win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.