Lee Iacocca was an arrogant jerk who made horrible cars and took credit for other people’s work. He was not the “father of the 1964 Mustang”, but just one of many people working on that project. The greatest success of Iacocca’s life was that he was able to take 100% credit for the Mustang after it became successful. There is no doubt that if the Mustang had flopped, Iacocca would have made sure his name was never mentioned in connection with it.
It is time to set the story straight on Lee Iacocca before the news reports turn him into some sort of automobile genius and God. When Iacocca became President of Ford in 1970, the first thing he did was turn out a string of cars that were absolute junk. Iacocca was not the father of the Mustang, but he was the father of the Ford Pinto, the Ford Fiesta, and the Ford Fairmont, three of the worst cars in history. He also temporarily ruined the Mustang by turning it into a sedan with an under-powered engine. It was only after he was fired that Ford re-designed the car and brought it back to its original sporty design.
When Henry Ford II fired Lee Iacocca in 1978, there was a celebration among many of the people who worked for Iacocca. The joke going around Ford at the time was:
“After being fired from Ford, Iacocca was offered the job of Pope. He turned it down, because he did not want to make a lateral career move. The people who worked for Iacocca hoped he would take the job as Pope, because then they would only have to kiss his ring.”
Lee Iacocca was always more skilled at making political friends then he was at making cars. He was able to convince the U.S. government to bail out Chrysler. Lee Iacocca was at the helm of Chrysler as it designed and sold the truly awful “K-Cars”. The driving public hated the K-Cars, but once again Iacocca used his political expertise to save the day. He successfully lobbied the U.S. government to have thousands of K-Cars bought by government agencies across the country. The U.S. taxpayer was saddled with the high repair costs and zero resale value of these rust-bucket rattletraps.
So what is the final legacy of Lee Iacocca? He personally made millions of dollars, but the people who actually built his awful cars did not share in the wealth.
The Detroit population is less than one half what it was in 1978 due to the decline of the auto industry. In the long run Iacocca and the other auto executives did not “save” anything. Lee Iacocca only used his power and influence to get as much as he could for himself. He cared nothing for his workers and turned out a string of truly horrible cars. The one thing Iacocca was great at was creating a myth about himself. He never did become Pope, but the press is treating his passing as if he were a Saint. Lee Iacocca would have loved that.