An automotive icon has passed away. Lee Iaccoca, the father of the Ford Mustang and savior of Chrysler, has passed away. He was 94 years old.
Iaccoca was born October 15, 1924 and began his automotive career with the Ford Motor Company in 1946. He was among those responsible for Ford's “56 for '56” financing program which offered loans for 1956 model cars for $56 a month for three years. Because of that, he rose through the ranks and, in 1960, he was promoted to vice-president and general manager of the Ford Division.
It was in the 1960's where Iaccoca was at his stride. He championed the Ford Mustang project with the aim of making a new 'small car' (not measuring more the five meters long) for the masses with a wide variety of engine, transmission, and equipment options. The car was developed in just 18 months and became an instant hit. Aside from the Mustang, other Iacocca-led Ford vehicles included the Escort, the Pinto, Lincoln Continental Mark III, Mercury Cougar, and Mercury Marquis, to name a few.
However, his relationship with Henry Ford II, the automaker's president at the time, was rocky. The two often clashed and Iacocca's ideas were shot down by Ford II. It reached its boiling point in 1978 when Ford II fired Iacocca from the company despite gaining a healthy $2 billion profit for the automaker.
While it seemed Iacocca's career in the automotive industry seemed over, Chrysler Corporation, who was hemorrhaging cash at the time, courted the former Ford executive. He joined the company and one of his ideas shot down by the Ford Motor Company would create a new type of vehicle segment and one that saved Chrysler from the brink.
After asking for a loan from the US government, Iacocca rebuilt Chrysler's structure from the ground up. He found more ways to make production easier and, hence, cheaper, and he focused on the future. The first all-new car under his leadership was the K-Car series, introduced in 1981. It was unlike a lot of American cars at the time with compact dimensions, front-wheel drive, and four-cylinder engines.
Despite the recession at the time, the K-Cars (Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant) sold rapidly, as consumers were looking for economy cars at the time. The K platform would later have other derivatives, ranging from mid-size sedans, wagons, coupes, convertibles, and more. You could even say that Iacocca was among those responsible for the first modular platforms in automotive history.
Aside from that, Iacocca's 'Mini-Max' idea meant for Ford would come to fruition in Chrysler. Yes, Iacocca, along with chief engineer Hal Sperlich (also fired by Ford II), would lay the foundations of the minivan and MPV as we know it today. In 1983, they unveiled the Dodge Caravan, and Plymouth Voyager minivans. Again,those models proved to be an instant success with room for seven, modular seating arrangements, and flexible cargo arrangements, much like modern MPVs. The minivans, along with the K-Cars (and its platform derivatives) saved Chrysler and they were able to settle the loan with interest.
Iacocca will be remembered for these achievements and contributions in the automotive industry. Without him, we wouldn't have the Mustang, the Escort, modular platforms and MPVs. In many ways, Lido Anthony Iacocca helped shape the automotive landscape.