Automotive kingpin Lido Anthony "Lee" Iacocca has died at age 94, announced dead in his Bel Air, Los Angeles residence this morning.
Born October 15, 1924 to Italian-American immigrants in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Iacocca became a Detroit heavyweight, getting his start in the automotive industry as an engineer at the Ford Motor Company before becoming the Blue Oval’s CEO in 1970.
Iacocca led the team that brought the world the iconic Mustang in 1964 and is credited with the famed quote, “What you race on Sunday, you sell on Monday,” used to justify Ford’s entrance to international racing in 1963.
After his promotion to CEO, Iacocca had a short fall from grace when he rushed the introduction of the 1971 Pinto. There were tooling issues that caused a major fault within the fuel tank.
Despite the serious defect, the Pinto went on sale and caused an estimated 500 deaths due to the fuel tank combusting in rear-end collisions. Following the recall of 1.5 million Pintos, Henry Ford II fired Iacocca in 1978.
Iacocca arrived that same year at Chrysler as its new CEO and is credited with saving the company from shutting its doors in the 1980s. He helped introduce the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant, which were similar to proposal designs Ford had rejected during Iacocca’s time at the company. The CEO famously appeared in the ads saying, "If you can find a better car, buy it."
By 1987, Chrysler had bounced back and bought Jeep, which was a division of AMC. The purchase included the acquisition of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Iacocca is perhaps one of the most famed automotive leaders of all time, and was listed by Portfolio magazine as the 18th-greatest American CEO of all time. Iacocca has also published several books, including a best-selling autobiography, Iacocca: An Autobiography.