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Lee Iacocca

Born: October 25, 1924
Place: Allentown, Pennsylvania

Lee Iacocca Lido Anthony Iacocca was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1924. His parents were Italian immigrants who, by example, taught the young Iacocca the values of hard work and perseverance. As a boy, Iacocca earned his own spending money as he went through his school years, and then was accepted as a student at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Lehigh, and went on to earn a master's degree in engineering from Princeton University in 1946. In that same year, Iacocca accepted a job with Ford Motor Company. It was during this period that Lido Anthony Iacocca decided that he would benefit by making his name more common, and from this point on he was known as Lee Iacocca.

When he first joined Ford Motor Company, Lee Iacocca entered as a trainee in Ford's engineering division, but he switched from an engineering path to sales. He worked his way up the sales ladder, and by 1956 he was a sales manager. In 1960 he became a vice president and general manager for Ford. In 1970, Iacocca took over as president of the company. Iacocca oversaw many of Ford's successes, including the introduction of the immensely popular Ford Mustang. However, his management style did not always endear him to others, and after conflicts with Henry Ford II, Iacocca left the company in 1978. By the end of that year, Lee Iacocca was named president of Chrysler Corp. Chrysler was in trouble, and many analysts predicted that Chrysler would fall into bankruptcy. Iacocca wanted to keep Chrysler in the auto industry and he intended to do whatever he could to get the company rolling again. In 1979 he became chairman of Chrysler. In a brash, controversial move, Iacocca succeeded in getting the federal government to back a $1.2 billion dollar loan guarantee and tax concessions for the company. Iacocca dug in, and obtained new sources of credit while at the same time trimming operations. He closed some plants, and negotiated with the labor unions to trim back wages and employment. He turned Chrysler's focus toward more fuel-efficient cars, and he appealed to Americans via television advertising to back Chrysler and buy its K-cars. He even appeared in TV ads himself, becoming something of a national celebrity.

Within five years, Lee Iacocca had turned Chrysler around. The country accepted Chrysler's K-cars, and Chrysler was able to repay its loans. In 1984, Chrysler introduced the minivan, and its success ensured Chrysler's position as a viable American automaker. The minivans became one of the country's best-selling vehicles, and Lee Iacocca became one of the most highly paid executives in the country. Lee Iacocca retired as Chrysler's chief executive in 1992.

Find out what made Lee Iacocca tick. Purchase his autobiography from Amazon.com. Click here to order Iacocca: An Autobiography, by Lee Iacocca with William Novak.

For a different point of view of Chrysler and Iacocca, read Behind the Wheel at Chrysler: The Iacocca Legacy, by Doron P. Levin. It's not as flattering to Iacocca as his own autobiography, but well worth reading if you are interested in the history of Chrysler's rise under Lee Iacocca.


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