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September 20, 1979 – Iacocca elected chairman of Chrysler

Industry giant Lido Anthony “Lee” Iacocca is elected chairman of Chrysler on this day in 1979. As a vice president at Ford more than a decade prior Iacocca was instrumental in the introduction of the Ford Mustang. He would project the need for fuel efficient, domestically made cars in the early 1970s, which led to the development of the Pinto. He was elected president of Ford in 1970 but was fired in 1978, likely due to fundamentally different business ideologies than those of Henry Ford II (even though Ford saw a profit of more than $2 billion in his final year). In the late 1970s Chrysler was struggling to breathe and was on the verge of going out of business, losing millions of dollars every month. At the time of Iacocca’s firing from Ford the Chrysler Corporation was strongly courting the automotive superstar. Iacocca accepted the challenge of saving Chrysler. Shortly after taking the chairman role Iacocca approached congress and asked for and secured a bailout of $1.5 billion, with certain stipulations for Chrysler, such as abandoning the development of a turbine engine, which was actually was actually ready in 1979, after more than 20 years of development.  The cash infusion led to the development of the highly successful K-Car line, the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant, in 1981, which were based on denied design proposals that Iacocca brought over from Ford. In 1983 another Ford project that never moved forward thanks to Henry Ford II, nicknamed the “Mini-Max” project, went into production for Chrysler: the minivan. For the next 25 years the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager would lead automobile sales. Iacocca wasn’t done yet. In 1987 he led the acquisition of AMC, which would result in the Jeep line. Iacocca retired as president, CEO and chairman of Chrysler in 1992 and today resides in Bel Air, California at the ripe age of 91. PicsLee Iacocca at the White House in 1993, meeting with Bill ClintonDodge Aries, a K-Car1986 Dodge Caravan

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