Lee Iacocca's appearance in a Chrysler group TV spot restores a sense of balance to the universe, at least for those of us who remember what the 80-year-old has accomplished.
And the timing is perfect.
Iacocca is known as the father of the Ford Mustang, which is in a glorious reincarnation. That was half a lifetime ago, before Iacocca was whacked by Henry Ford II and migrated to the old Chrysler Corp., where he twice saved that automaker from bankruptcy and oblivion.
For the past decade, Iacocca has been an outcast in Detroit's automotive circles because he teamed up with billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian to try to take over Chrysler. Back then, insiders figured Iacocca had tarnished his legacy. After all, his teed-off former colleagues decided not to name the Auburn Hills headquarters after him, even though he was the driving force (Dare I say visionary?) behind what came to be seen as a world-class facility.
But now the new owners have extended an olive branch to Iacocca and given him a chance to get back on the path to automotive sainthood.
It turns out you can go home again. And that's exactly as it should be for those of us who know and remember Iacocca.
The larger issue is whether his persona can still sell cars. Can he move the needle by pitching "the deal" instead of product?
Since he left Chrysler, Iacocca has stayed active in several businesses, ranging from electric bicycles to olive oil. But he has hasn't really been seen by the public. Two decades ago, he led the drive to restore Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and sold a lot of books to Americans, but do they remember him?
Just in case that's an issue, one ad also has actor Jason Alexander in another incarnation of his George Costanza character from the old "Seinfeld" TV show. That should resonate with a demographic that may not have immediate recall of Iacocca. And in case anyone misses the not-so-subtle link to Seinfeld, it's hammered home by Iacocca's "yadayadayada."
But in our ever-changing world of heroes and pop-culture icons, does Iacocca - even with an assist from Costanza - still have credibility with the consumer?
It probably doesn't matter. Chrysler still has hot products, and its deal is competitive in the marketplace, even though GM's "Employee Discount for Everyone" set the pace.
Don't get me wrong. Any boost Iacocca brings to the group's sales total will be welcome, and he does give the Chrysler group a buzz factor.
But more importantly, the Iacocca TV spot means Dieter Zetsche and his lieutenants at DaimlerChrysler appreciate the company's heritage, and the people who built it.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at