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He also thought that Americans would be more willing to spend more money on cars, as the average American in the 1950s and 60s was growing richer (Swinfin, 2007).
The result of all this analysis -- Mustang was born! It was a sexy sports car that a young man might want for his first car, but that that women could still drive around the neighborhood to do their shopping. Iacocca 'got' the Baby Boom, suburban car-driving teen lifestyle even before it became an official trend -- he was ahead of the curve. The predicted promise of the 'pony car' promised plenty of success for Ford!
The Italian-American Catholic Iacocca became president of Ford in 1970. This was considered ground-breaking, in a company dominated by WASPs, and family tradition ("Lee Iacocca," Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, 2006). However, President Iacocca's brash style clashed with the more buttoned-down style of management of Ford, specifically the personality Henry Ford III. At Ford, toeing the line and making your character as conformist as an old-style Model T. was often more important than the profits. Lee's innovation and naked determination to be the best didn't always fit in. But Iacocca was ready for an even greater challenge. He moved onto Chrysler, a once proud star in the American automotive firmament which had fallen into bankruptcy.
People said his task was hopeless, but Iacocca ignored these doubters. At first, as predicted Iacocca was unable to get private banks to finance his vision for Chrysler. But he went to President Carter and Congress and asked for $1.2 billion in federal loan guarantees. The loss of jobs and a major American automotive company would further destabilize the already fragile American car market, he argued. Congress agreed, and passed the Chrysler Loan Guarantee Act. Filled with the confidence, and knowing he had benefited from the trust and the taxpayer, Iacocca made Chrysler prosper. "The K. car, and the numerous models derived from it (including the minivan) put Chrysler back into the black" (Goodrich, 1990:1).
This came at a price -- Iacocca had to be harsh. It meant layoffs, wage cuts, and plant closings to make the company more efficient. Success always comes at a price. But Lee's most important insight was the need to shift to more fuel-efficient cars and compete with the Japanese behemoths of Toyota and Honda with an aggressive advertising campaign that restored the trust of the American populace in American-manufactured cars. Subcompacts were the new order of the day and smaller cars were better cars. This was new, innovative thinking for the American car industry
Within a few years Chrysler was showing record profits. Just like Iacocca wanted, the loan to Congress was repaid long before it was due (Goodrich, 1990:1). Iacocca also lobbied the Reagan Administration to convince the Japanese to adopt temporary, voluntary caps on their exports to allow the American car companies get back on their feet -- this helped American car manufacturing in general not just Chrysler. Iacocca, although intensely competitive, believed that his ultimate mission was not simply to rebuild the Chrysler Company, but to revitalize American's faith and trust in America's ability to make good cars ("Lee Iacocca," Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, 2006). Throughout his career, Iacocca was always a true patriot.
Iacocca's mission is thus not yet finished. American car manufacturing still lags behind Japanese companies like Toyota even though under Iacocca's steady hand, Chrysler prospered. Iacocca retired in the early 1990s, but another Iacocca is needed. A man or woman with his same faith, same energy, same willingness to break the mold, and the same eye for emerging market and technological trends. Ford or GM, now in tatters, could use someone who is willing to cut the fat, to look at marketing trends, and create a vision of a more fuel-efficient American tomorrow, before it is too late.
Goodrich, Tucker. "Iacocca broke - Lee Iacocca, Chrysler Corp." National Review.
Dec 1990. 29 Apr. 2007. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_n23_v42/ai_9224646/pg_3
Lee Iacocca." Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 2006.
Answers.com 29 Apr. 2007. http://www.answers.com/topic/lee-iacocca
Swinfin, Connie S. "Biography of Lido a. Iacocca." Business Biography. St. Francis
University. 29 Apr. 2007. http://www.stfrancis.edu/ba/ghkickul/stuwebs/bbios/biograph/leeic.htm[continue]
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