Lee Iacocca may have worn a grey suit on most days, but Steve Jobs had a wardrobe full of identical black polo necks. The point is, clothes do not make the man, at least certainly not in Iacocca's case. Underneath the corporate wear, Iacocca was a rock star, only instead of a triple-necked Ibanez, Iacocca's instruments were his swagger, his lust for an adventurous life, and a limitless pool of charisma.Rescuing Chrysler from its first looming bankruptcy, he introduced the company's K-cars and saved it after a $1.5-billion federal loan, before going on to create the minivan segment with the launch of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager in 1983.
Iacocca was nearing retirement, and thought it perfect timing to write a best-selling book, so he did that too. But he didn't hang up the grey suit before arguably the finest moment of his career, engineering Chrysler's acquisition of American Motors Corporation and adding the prized Jeep brand to the company's portfolio.
Like Apple's Jobs was to follow some decades later as the favoured cover subject on newsstands everywhere, Iacocca set the trend as the darling executive celebrity years earlier. He hung out with Frank Sinatra, tycoon George Steinbrenner, and Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli. And every once in a while, he'd don the grey suit and get down to business, creating legends. Legends such as the Ford Mustang.
Before being famously ousted from Ford leadership by Henry Ford II, with "Hank the Deuce" providing an excuse of, "I just don't like you," Iacocca gave birth to an icon, the Mustang. As a young President John F. Kennedy led a youthful Sixties America, Iacocca recognised the need for an affordable sporty new car, and convinced the sceptical Ford board to take a risk. Iacocca's darling flew off dealership floors, at a rate of 100,000 Mustangs in the first 100 days, and total sales for the first year of production reached over 400,000.
But the Deuce was hard to please, and Iacocca was welcomed with open arms by Chrysler in 1978. Presiding over the third biggest American carmaker, Iacocca became the first head of an automobile company to serve as an advertising spokesperson, coming up with a typically gutsy catchphrase to match his daring new products: "If you find a better car, buy it!"