The Man Behind the Mustang rides off into the Sunset

Last week saw one of the American motor industry’s biggest stars depart the stage for the last time at the age of 94. He was the man behind Ford’s incredibly successful Mustang as well as the Chrysler Minivan, the original American people-mover.

Lee Iacocca trained as an engineer but his real talent lay in marketing. He was a salesman who knew what the market wanted, when it wanted it and he made both Ford and Chrysler a shed load of money in the process.

It could be argued that his greatest achievement was saving Chrysler from extinction by introducing the monumentally successful Minivan as well as securing a large chunk of government loaned cash. But it will be the Ford Mustang that he will be remembered for by most.

Iacocca didn’t design the Mustang, nor did he come up with the name. But as vice president he made it happen. It was an affordable, sporty car that was exactly what many people wanted. It became a mammoth success that spawned the Pony car revolution that included some of America’s greatest cars (Camaro, Firebird, Challenger etc.). The Mustang was Ford’s most successful launch since the Model A of 1927.

He followed the Mustang with the Pinto, a compact car that, as per Iacocca’s instructions, would weigh less than 2000lbs and cost less than $2000. Whilst it was also a success it was also a controversial car due to its habit of exploding in an accident (click to see our previous article about this). Not his finest moment.

Lee Iacocca was considered one of the first celebrity CEOs. He co-wrote an autobiography (America’s best selling non-fiction hardback book of 1984 and 85) as well as another book about leadership. He also almost ran for the office of US President and had an acting role in an episode of Miami Vice.

Lee Iacocca 1924 – 2019.


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