10 Things You Didn’t know about Lee Iacocca

Lee Iaccoca

Lee Iacocca was an automotive executive of considerable importance. In particular, people will be familiar with him because he was the one who revived the Chrysler Corporation. However, Iacocca was a very high-profile figure, meaning that other people will be more familiar with him because of other reasons.

1. Born in Allentown, PA

Lee Iacocca was born in Allentown, which is one of the most populous cities in the state of Pennsylvania. Economy-wise, Allentown was once centered on manufacturing. However, it suffered through the same issues as the rest of the Rust Belt, meaning that it is now much more centered on services.

2. Born to Italian Immigrants

Based on his name, it should come as no surprise to learn that Iacocca had some Italian heritage to him. To be exact, he was born to a pair of Italian immigrants named Antonietta Perrotta and Nicola Iacocca, both of whom had come from the Italian province of Benevento. For those who are curious, said the province is situated in the Southern Italian region of Campania, which was known by the Romans as the Campania Felix, meaning something along the lines of the “happy countryside.”

3. Studied Industrial Engineering At Lehigh University

In time, Iacocca went to Lehigh University, which is a private research university. Presumably, convenience was one of the factors that influenced his choice, seeing as how the school is situated in Bethlehem, PA, which is a neighbor to Allentown, PA. There, Iacocca studied industrial engineering. Something that proved to be very useful for his eventual career in the automotive industry.

4. Studied Politics and Plastics At Princeton University

Once Iacocca graduated from Lehigh University, he went on to Princeton University where he continued to study engineering. However, it is interesting to note that Iacocca also took electives in both politics and plastics in this period, thus rounding out his education to some extent.

5. Moved Over to Marketing

Naturally, when Iacocca signed up with the Ford Motor Company in August of 1946, he did so as an engineer. However, it is clear that Iacocca wasn’t wholly satisfied with his experience as a Ford engineer because he requested a move over to sales and marketing within no more than a short period of time. Said move proved to be very fruitful because it turned out that Iacocca would flourish in those particular fields.

6. Received National Recognition Because of “56 For 56” Campaign

For proof, look no further than the fact that Iacocca received national recognition because of the “56 for 56” campaign that he concocted when he was still an assistant sales manager in Philadelphia. On the whole, the “56 for 56” campaign was very simple and straightforward, seeing as how it offered car loans on 1956 cars to interested individuals in exchange for just 20 percent down payment as well as $56 monthly payments for a period of three years. However, the “56 for 56” campaign proved to be very successful, which is why Iacocca winded up getting called into the head office.

7. Pushed For the Creation of the Ford Pinto

Iacocca was a critical figure for the creation of the Ford Pinto, which was meant to provide the U.S. market with a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle. However, the Ford Pinto tends to be better-remembered because of a fuel tank that was said to rupture with ease whenever it was struck from behind. Something that produced a recall so infamous that it is still studied in business classes in the present time.

8. Pioneered Other Vehicles

With that said, it is important to note that Iacocca was behind a number of other vehicles that met with much better responses. For example, he was a contributor to the Ford Escort, the Ford Mustang, and even the revival of the Mercury brand in the 1960s. Likewise, Iacocca was the one who came up with the minivan, though that wasn’t produced until he had moved over to Chrysler.

9. Clashed With Henry Ford II

Iacocca was fired from his position of the president of the Ford Motor Company in 1978 in spite of a $2 billion profit. This was because he clashed with Henry Ford’s eldest grandson Henry Ford II, who was both the CEO and the Chairman of the Board for the corporation in those times. Due to this, Iacocca was scouted by Chrysler, which was something of a gamble at the time because its U.S. operations were losing huge sums of money while its European operations had to been sold off for fundraising purposes. Despite these odds, Iacocca managed to revive Chrysler, thus making it no wonder that he is still respected in the automotive industry and beyond for this remarkable feat.

10. Big Personality

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Iacocca had what can be called a big personality. Essentially, he was both brash and charismatic, so much so that he was capable of causing an entire room to focus on him with minimal effort on his part. However, what distinguished Iacocca from a lot of other brash, charismatic figures was that he was perfectly capable of backing up his extravagant promises. Something that spoke volumes about the sheer extent of the expertise, the experience, and the other components of competence that Iacocca could bring to his chosen field when he chose to. Unsurprisingly, this big personality played an important role in the formation of Iacocca’s legend, though of course, it was helped to a considerable extent in this regard by his incredible business skills as well.


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