Credited for creating the iconic Ford Mustang and saving Chrysler from bankruptcy; auto industry legend and business statesman, Lido Anthony “Lee” Iacocca has died at the age of 94. In a career that spanned close to five decades, between the late 1940s to the early 1990s, Iacocca would be remembered as one of those once-in-a-lifetime individuals that shaped and defined America’s auto industry, changing the course of automotive history in the process.
Iacocca is reputed to have left his indelible imprint on the world’s automotive landscape on the at least three occasions – first as the driving force behind the Ford Mustang in 1964, ensuring that Chrysler in under three years of his CEOship became a profitable business and lastly creating a new market segment in the auto-industry via the introduction of the minivan.
Iacocca, born to Italian immigrant parents in 1924, started working at Ford Motor Company as a Ford engineering trainee in 1946 following the completion of a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Princeton. He would later move to marketing and then by the end of 1960, he was appointed vice president in charge of car and truck sales for Ford Division at the age of 36. 10 years later and 24 years after joining the company as a trainee, Iacocca was named president of Ford in 1970.
Following personal disagreements with Henry Ford II, Iacocca left Ford in 1978 to join Chrysler as CEO/President and a year later became Chairman at the age of 53. He would retire from the company in 1992. Instructively as Chairman of Chrysler, he would feature on some TV commercials delivering a memorable tagline line in the ads – “If you can find a better car, buy it.”
Iacocca was an immensely iconic international business leader. Lending credence to this, Harvard Business School professor Rakesh Khurana wrote – Iacocca “will probably go down in history as the first modern example of a charismatic business leader”.
For Iacocca, family was most important despite his career achievements and civic activities. He is reputed to have said, “my legacy is two great daughters and six grandchildren so far. That’s your only real legacy, let’s face it. The rest comes and goes… In the end, if you’re healthy and your family’s good, the rest was fun. I’ve always felt that when I die, if I can say I’ve done well by my family … then I’ve lived a full life and a good life.”
Here are 10 powerful quotes by Lee Iacocca:
“Start with good people.”
“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product and profits. Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.”
“I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.”
“Pick good people and set the right priorities.”
“Get all the education you can, but then by God, do something. Don’t just stand there, make it happen.”
“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don’t just sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”
“Listening can make the difference between a mediocre organization and a great one.”
“There’s no great mystery to satisfying your customers. Build them a quality product and treat them with respect. It’s that simple.”
“The ability to concentrate and to use time well is everything.”
“You can have brilliant ideas but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”