He made his reputation on the deal. The first time he came into prominence was as assistant sales manager in Ford Division's Philadelphia district with a deal he called 56 for 56. After a 20 percent down payment, customers paid $56 a month for three years for a 1956 Ford. Lee Iacocca was off and running.
Everyone knows his history, so there is no point in repeating it all. Whether you knew him at Ford or Chrysler doesn't matter. He was around a long time.
And now he's back doing commercials for the Chrysler group.
He's great. Maybe if you're under 30, you don't know who he is, but today's generation has never heard of Dwight Eisenhower, either.
My favorite Iacocca spot is the one with his granddaughter. I hope that's his granddaughter. It is simply charming.
In the early 1980s, Chrysler Corp. and ad agency Kenyon and Eckhardt, which was headed by Leo-Arthur Kelmenson, spent tens of millions of dollars for advertising featuring Lee. That made him a household fixture, and it sold a lot of cars and trucks, which was the idea. It's funny how millions of dollars worth of commercials can make you a celebrity.
Lee Iacocca is a very young 80 years old. If Chrysler doesn't want to make him president of the company, it should give him the Los Angeles zone. He'd have that place cranking before you knew it.
It's a shame Iacocca isn't in the game.
It's a shame so many good people aren't in the game anymore.
When you retire folks who are in their 50s, it's almost always political. Rarely has anyone been doing so badly that after 30 years the company figures it out and fires him or her. No, it's political.
All those folks in their 50s have the institutional knowledge of the company. It was their job to teach the next generation how to build, design, engineer or market cars and trucks. When they leave, so do their knowledge and experience. And the company, any company, becomes a bit weaker. And most companies don't even care.
Lee Iacocca had a great run in the car business. Leading two of the great companies in the world ain't bad. But even today, he has a lot to share. If he's not running a district office, he should be teaching in California.
My friend Chuck Jordan, the retired General Motors design vice president, has been teaching high school students all about great design. They are very lucky.
So is he.
Most folks have a couple of good decades left when they leave a company. Just because the company didn't have the good sense to take advantage of their knowledge and skills doesn't mean they should retire from life. There is still too much to get done.