|Birth Day:||October 15, 1924|
|Birth Place:||Allentown, United States|
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He received an engineering degree from Lehigh University and later continued his education at Princeton.
Iacocca graduated with honors from Allentown High School in 1942, and Lehigh University in neighboring Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in industrial engineering. He was a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and an alumnus of Theta Chi fraternity.
Iacocca joined Ford Motor Company in August 1946. After a brief stint in engineering, he asked to be moved to sales and marketing, where his career flourished. While working in the Philadelphia district as assistant sales manager, Iacocca gained national recognition with his "56 for '56" campaign, offering loans on 1956 model year cars with a 20% down payment and $56 in monthly payments for three years. His campaign went national, and Iacocca was called to the Dearborn headquarters, where he quickly moved up through the ranks. On November 10, 1960, Iacocca was named vice-president and general manager of the Ford Division; in January 1965 Ford's vice-president, car and truck group; in 1967, executive vice-president; and president on December 10, 1970.
Iacocca was married to Mary McCleary on September 29, 1956. They had two daughters. Mary Iacocca died from type 1 diabetes on May 15, 1983. Before her death, Iacocca became a strong advocate for better medical treatment of type 1 diabetes patients, who frequently faced debilitating and fatal complications, and he continued this work after her death.
In 1968, Iacocca foresaw the need for domestically produced, small, fuel-efficient vehicles, and proposed a vehicle that weighed less than 2,000 pounds and would be priced at less than $2,000. Although Ford's European subsidiary was already selling such a model (the Ford Escort), a team of Ford designers was assigned to create the exterior and interior of an entirely new car, which would be named Pinto. The Pinto entered production beginning with the 1971 model year. Iacocca was described as the "moving force" behind the Ford Pinto.
In 1977, there were allegations that the Pinto's structural design allowed its fuel-tank filler neck to break off and the fuel tank to be punctured in a rear-end collision, resulting in deadly fires. This case is a staple of engineering ethics courses as an example of a bad cost–benefit analysis. In 1978, all 1971-1976 Pintos were recalled and had safety shielding and reinforcements installed to protect the fuel tank.
Eventually, he became the president of the Ford Motor Company, but he clashed with Henry Ford II. He was fired on July 13, 1978, even though the company posted a $2 billion profit for the year.
Realizing that the company would go out of business if it did not receive a large infusion of cash, Iacocca approached the United States Congress in 1979 and successfully requested a loan guarantee. In order to obtain the guarantee, Chrysler was required to reduce costs and abandon some longstanding projects, such as the turbine engine, which had been ready for consumer production in 1979 after nearly 20 years of development.
Chrysler released the first of the K-Car line, the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant, in 1981. Similar to the later minivan, these compact automobiles were based on design proposals that Ford had rejected during Iacocca's (and Sperlich's) tenure. Released in the middle of the major 1980-1982 recession, the small, efficient, and inexpensive front-wheel drive cars sold rapidly. In addition, Iacocca re-introduced the big Imperial as the company's flagship. The new model had all of the newest technologies of the time, including fully electronic fuel injection and all-digital dashboard.
In May 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Iacocca to head the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which was created to raise funds for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and the renovation of Ellis Island. Iacocca continued to serve on the board of the foundation until his death.
Also from Ford, Iacocca brought to Chrysler the "Mini-Max" project, which, in 1983, bore fruit in the highly successful Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Henry Ford II had wanted nothing to do with the Mini-Max, a restyled version of the minivan, which Toyota was selling in huge numbers in Asia and Latin America, and his opinion doomed the project at Ford. Hal Sperlich, the driving force behind the Mini-Max at Ford, had been fired a few months before Iacocca. He had been hired by Chrysler, where the two would make automotive history together.
Chrysler introduced the minivan, chiefly Sperlich's "baby", in late 1983. It led the automobile industry in sales for 25 years. Because of the K-cars and minivans, along with the reforms Iacocca implemented, the company turned around quickly and was able to repay the government-backed loans seven years earlier than expected.
In 1984, Iacocca co-authored (with William Novak) an autobiography, titled Iacocca: An Autobiography. It was the best selling non-fiction hardback book of 1984 and 1985. The book used heavy discounting which would become a trend among publishers in the 1980s. Iacocca donated the proceeds of the book's sales to type 1 diabetes research.
In 1985, Iacocca received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.
Iacocca played Park Commissioner Lido in "Sons and Lovers", the 44th episode of Miami Vice, which premiered on May 9, 1986. The name of the character is his birth name, which was not used in the public sphere due to the trouble of mispronunciation or misspelling.
Iacocca's second marriage was to Peggy Johnson. They married on April 17, 1986, but in 1987, after nineteen months, Iacocca had the marriage annulled. He married for the third time in 1991 to Darrien Earle. They were divorced three years later.
Iacocca led Chrysler's acquisition of AMC in 1987, which brought the profitable Jeep division under the corporate umbrella. It created the short-lived Eagle division. By this time, AMC had already finished most of the work on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which Iacocca wanted. The Grand Cherokee would not be released until 1992 for the 1993 model year, the same year that Iacocca retired.
In 1988, Iacocca co-authored (with Sonny Kleinfeld) Talking Straight, a book meant as a counterbalance to Akio Morita's Made in Japan, a non-fiction book praising Japan's post-war hard-working culture. Talking Straight praised the innovation and creativity of Americans.
Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey discussed with Iacocca an appointment to the U.S. Senate in 1991 after the death of Senator John Heinz, but Iacocca declined.
In 1993, he had joined the board of MGM Grand, led by his friend Kirk Kerkorian. He started a merchant bank to fund ventures in the gaming industry, which he called "the fastest-growing business in the world". In 1995, he sold his interests in several Indian gaming projects to Full House Resorts, a casino operator led by his friend Allen Paulson, becoming a major shareholder and later a member of the board of directors.
Iacocca founded Olivio Premium Products in 1993. Olivio's signature product was an olive oil-based margarine product. Iacocca appeared in commercials for Olivio.
Iacocca partnered with producer Pierre Cossette to bring a production of The Will Rogers Follies to Branson, Missouri, in 1994. He also invested in Branson Hills, a 1,400-acre housing development.
In 1995, Iacocca assisted in billionaire Kirk Kerkorian's hostile takeover of Chrysler, which was ultimately unsuccessful. The next year, Kerkorian and Chrysler made a five-year agreement which included a gag order preventing Iacocca from speaking publicly about Chrysler.
Iacocca joined the board of restaurant chain Koo Koo Roo in 1995. In 1998, he stepped up to serve as acting chairman of the troubled company, and led it through a merger with Family Restaurants (owner of Chi-Chi's and El Torito). He sat on the board of the merged company until stepping down in 1999.
In 1999, Iacocca became the head of EV Global Motors, a company formed to develop and market electric bikes with a top speed of 15 mph and a range of 20 miles between recharging at wall outlets.
Following the death of Iacocca's wife Mary from type 1 diabetes, he became an active supporter of research for the disease. He was one of the main patrons of the research of Denise Faustman at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 2000, Iacocca founded Olivio Premium Products, which manufactures the Olivio line of food products made from olive oil. He donated all profits from the company to type 1 diabetes research. In 2004, Iacocca launched Join Lee Now, a national grassroots campaign, to bring Faustman's research to human clinical trials in 2006.
Politically, Iacocca supported the Republican candidate George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. In the 2004 presidential election, however, he endorsed Bush's opponent, Democrat John Kerry. In Michigan's 2006 gubernatorial race, Iacocca appeared in televised political ads endorsing Republican candidate Dick DeVos, who lost. Iacocca endorsed New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for President in the 2008 presidential election. In 2012, he endorsed Mitt Romney for President.
Iacocca was an advocate of "Nourish the Children", an initiative of Nu Skin Enterprises, since its inception in 2002; he even served as its chairman. He helped donate a generator for the Malawi VitaMeal plant.
In July 2005, Iacocca returned to the airwaves as Chrysler's pitchman, along with celebrities such as Jason Alexander and Snoop Dogg, to promote Chrysler's "Employee Pricing Plus" program; the ads reprise the "If you can find a better car, buy it" line, Iacocca's trademark of the 1980s. In return for his services, Iacocca and DaimlerChrysler agreed that his fees, plus a $1 donation per vehicle sold from July 1 through December 31, 2005, would be given to the Iacocca Foundation for type 1 diabetes research.
On April 17, 2007, Simon & Schuster published Iacocca's book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, co-written with Catherine Whitney. In the book, Iacocca writes:
In his 2007 book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?, Iacocca described how he considered running for president in 1988 and was in the planning stages of a campaign with the slogan "I Like I", before ultimately being talked out of it by his friend Tip O'Neill. Polls at the time confirmed that he had a realistic chance of winning.
On December 3, 2007, Iacocca launched a website to encourage open dialogue about the challenges of contemporary society. He introduced topics such as health care costs, and the United States' lag in developing alternative energy sources and hybrid vehicles. The site also promotes his book Where Have All the Leaders Gone. It provides an interactive means for users to rate presidential candidates by the qualities Iacocca believes they should possess: curiosity, creativity, communication, character, courage, conviction, charisma, competence and common sense.
Iacocca resided in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, during his later life. He died on July 2, 2019, at his home in Bel Air, at the age of 94. The cause was complications of Parkinson's disease. His funeral was held on July 10, 2019 at St. Hugo of the Hills Roman Catholic Church and he was buried at White Chapel Memorial Cemetery in Troy, Michigan.
Iacocca, portrayed by Jon Bernthal, is a major character in the 2019 film Ford v Ferrari, which is a dramatization of the 1960s Ford GT40 program. The film was released shortly after Iacocca's death.
Currently, Lee Iacocca is 97 years, 3 months and 9 days old. Lee Iacocca will celebrate 98th birthday on a Saturday 15th of October 2022.
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