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Lee Iacocca, the man behind Mustangs and minivans, has died

One of the original superstar car company chiefs has died aged 94

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The car industry is chockful of icons, but most of them emerge from the world of motorsport. But every now and then they’re an industry figure in a suit. One of the biggest was Lee Iacocca, who’s passed away aged 94.

Iacocca is credited with introducing the Ford Mustang back in the Sixties, a car that completely transformed how cars were purchased and one that’s still in production now.

“We wanted to develop a car that you could drive to the country club on Friday night, to the drag strip on Saturday and to church on Sunday,” he once said. The fact the Mustang lives on – surviving the almost entire SUV takeover of Ford’s US range – suggests his team absolutely nailed it.

Then there’s his turnaround of the Chrysler brand in the Eighties, helped by the introduction of the inexpensive front-wheel-drive cars Ford had rejected during his tenure as well as the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan, which together pioneered the whole minivan sub-culture of American motoring. As he retired from Chrysler, in the early Nineties, the Jeep Grand Cherokee launched and effectively invented the premium SUV. It was the fruits of his buyout of AMC years earlier.

There were lows, such as the deadly fires that afflicted the cut-price Ford Pinto introduced in the early Seventies. It’s a disaster story cited among the highest-profile product recalls in history, and with Iacocca behind it, it’s undoubtedly a blot on his CV. But his career wasn’t derailed by it, as testified by the warmth and respect flooding in after his passing.

“Lee Iacocca played a historic role in steering Chrysler through crisis and making it a true competitive force,” said an FCA statement today. “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.

“His legacy is the resiliency and unshakeable faith in the future that live on in the men and women of FCA who strive every day to live up to the high standards he set.”

Bill Ford commented too: “Lee Iacocca was truly bigger than life and he left an indelible mark on Ford, the auto industry and our country. Lee played a central role in the creation of Mustang.

“On a personal note, I will always appreciate how encouraging he was to me at the beginning of my career. He was one of a kind and will be dearly missed.”

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