News People Chrysler saviour Lee Iacocca dies at 94
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Chrysler saviour Lee Iacocca dies at 94

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Lee Iacocca in 2004. Photo: Getty
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Lee Iacocca, the charismatic US car industry executive who gave America the Ford Mustang and was celebrated for saving Chrysler from going out of business, has died at the age of 94.

Mr Iacocca died at his home in Bel-Air, California on Tuesday of complications from Parkinson’s disease, his daughter, Lia Iacocca Assad, told The Washington Post.

A statement from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said :

“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,” the company said.

Born in the Pennsylvania steel town of Allentown, the son of Italian immigrants had a nearly five-decade career in Detroit that began in 1946 at Ford.

Mr Iacocca 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 petrol prices soared in the 1970s, and the first-ever, family-oriented minivan in the 1980s that led its segment in sales for 25 years.

“I don’t know an auto executive that I’ve ever met who has a feel for the American consumer the way he does,” late United Auto Workers Union president Douglas Fraser had said.

“He’s the greatest communicator who’s ever come down the pike in the history of the industry.”

Mr 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.

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Ford’s unpopular Pinto – a rare Iacocca flop. Photo: Getty

Mr Iacocca 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 US Congress for $US1.2 billion ($A1.7 billion) in federally guaranteed loans and persuading suppliers, dealers and union workers to make sacrifices. He cut his salary to $1 a year.

He put his personal reputation on the line, and in the end, it was a tour de force of leadership. He paid the loans back seven years early, and factoring in positions at Chrysler, its dealerships and suppliers, he saved more than 500,000 jobs.

Chrysler floundered again in the 1980s and early ’90s. Mr Iacocca refused to cut new product spending, and by 1992, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and LH sedans led to a $732 million profit, while Ford and General Motors Co were in the red.

With Chrysler profitable again, Mr Iacocca stepped down at the end of 1992.

-AAP