Lee Iacocca was a key figure in the success of two automotive giants.
Iacocca joined Ford Motor Company in 1946, first as an engineer but soon found his place in marketing. One of his most popular campaigns, “56 for ‘56’,” was his solution for current flat Ford sales. During the campaign, customers would make a 20% down payment then make monthly payments of $56 for the next three years when they purchased a 1956 model year car. This brought his Philadelphia district that he implemented the campaign in from the bottom to number one in the nation for units sold.
Distinguishing himself because of his ability and charisma, in 1960 he became the youngest man ever to head Ford’s flagship division. Iacocca’s talent for anticipating the public’s needs and desires led to the development of the Ford Mustang. The sporty, moderately priced Mustang debuted just in time to appeal to a nation of “baby boomers” who were looking for a car to express their identity. The Mustang was an instant hit and established record sales. He was also instrumental in helping launch the Continental Mark III, the Ford Escort, and the revival of the Mercury brand. In Iacocca’s last year at Ford, the company posted a $2 billion profit.
Leaving Ford in 1978, Iacocca accepted the challenge of saving the Chrysler Corporation from imminent bankruptcy. Convincing the federal government that Chrysler had a future, he obtained government-guaranteed loans and engineered a spectacular turnaround. Chrysler repaid its loans before their due dates because of the sales success of new products inspired by Iacocca, including the fuel-efficient K-cars and, later, the popular mini-van.
Achieving celebrity status throughout the world, Iacocca became a best-selling author and successfully raised funds to renovate the Statue of Liberty. He is now the co-author of three books and focuses on philanthropy, specifically finding a cure for Diabetes.