The man who helped saved Chrysler from near-bankruptcy in the 1980s and stood as an American auto industry icon, Lee Iacocca, died Tuesday evening. He was 94.
Iacocca, who was instrumental in the design and creation of the Ford Mustang and the instantly recognizable Chrysler minivan, passed away from natural causes, CNN reported, leaving behind two daughters and eight grandchildren.
The auto legend, born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, started his career with Ford in 1946 and moved up the ranks until reaching the pinnacle in 1970 when he was made president of the company. But his success with Ford didn’t last forever.
“I began my life as the son of immigrants, and I worked my way up to the presidency of the Ford Motor Company,” he wrote in his 1984 autobiography. “When I finally got there, I was on top of the world. But then fate said to me: ‘Wait. We’re not finished with you. Now you’re going to find out what it feels like to get kicked off Mt. Everest!’”
Iacocca was fired from his position by Henry Ford Jr. in 1978 but was quickly scooped up by the Chrysler Company, where he was made CEO within a year. While there, he convinced Congress to authorize the Treasury Department to bailout the automaker to the tune of $1.5 billion. It ended up being a win-win situation as Chrysler rebounded from back-to-back recessions and was able to pay back the loan earlier than anticipated, all while the Treasury made a profit off the stock it received as payment.
During this time, Iacocca was able to lead the company to profitability through the wave of European and Asian carmakers that emerged onto the scene and scooped up a large portion of the market. Many may remember him from the commercials that spawned during this era that saw him standing in front of a Chrysler and saying, “If you can find a better car, buy it.”
“He played a historic role in steering Chrysler through crisis and making it a true competitive force,” Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said in a statement, according to CNN. “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.”
Editor’s Note: RealClearLife, a news and lifestyle publisher, is now a part of InsideHook. Together, we’ll be covering current events, pop culture, sports, travel, health and the world. Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.
Thanks for reading InsideHook. Sign up for our daily newsletter and be in the know.