24 Jul. 1997
Lee Iacocca, the charismatic U.S. auto industry executive who gave America the Ford Mustang and was celebrated for saving Chrysler from going out of business, died July 2 at the age of 94. During a nearly five-decade career in Detroit that began in 1946 at Ford Motor Co, the proud son of Italian immigrants made the covers of Time, Newsweek and the New York Times Sunday Magazine in stories portraying him as the avatar of the American Auto Age. One of the first celebrity U.S. chief executives, his autobiography made best-seller lists in the mid-1980s. Iacocca was a cracker-jack salesman. He encouraged his design teams to be bold, and they responded with sports cars that appealed to baby boomers in the 1960s, fuel-efficient models when gasoline prices soared in the 1970s, and the first-ever, family-oriented minivan in the 1980s that led its segment in sales for 25 years. Iacocca also had some duds, such as the Ford Pinto, an economy car that became notorious for exploding fuel tanks. "You don't win 'em all," he said of the Pinto. He won a place in business history when he pulled Chrysler, now part of Fiat Chrysler, from the brink of collapse in 1980, rallying support in U.S. Congress for $1.2 billion in federally guaranteed loans and persuading suppliers, dealers and union workers to make sacrifices. He cut his salary to $1 a year.