Lee Iacocca, best known for his work in developing the original Ford Mustang, has died at the age of 94.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1924, Iacocca studied politics and plastics at the prestigious Princeton University, before joining Ford’s engineering department shortly after the Second World War.
Early success at the company was followed by successive promotions to vice-president and general manager of the Ford Division; Ford’s vice-president, car and truck group; executive vice-president; and finally president in 1970.
Iacocca was instrumental in the conception of many of Ford’s most successful vehicles, but it was the first-generation Mustang, launched in 1964, that cemented his reputation as one of the most influential engineers of the 20th century.
Renowned for his innovative management style, with a heightened focus on collaboration, Iacocca is quoted as once saying: “I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way”.
With this ethos, Iacocca contributed to a $2 billion profit for Ford in 1978, but constant disagreements with chairman Henry Ford II led to his dismissal that year, and he joined an ailing Chrysler just as the brand had sold its European division to Peugeot in an effort to reduce losses.
At Chrysler, Iacocca is credited, essentially, with the birth of the minivan. Inspired by the huge demand for upright, spacious, family-haulers in Japan, the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager were overwhelming sales hits for parent company Chrysler, and are widely associated with its return from the brink of bankruptcy.