A look at Lee Iacocca's most iconic moments in the auto industry.
Anna Bauman, Wochit
The tributes to Lee Iacocca, who died a few days ago, have been heartfelt and deserved. During his decades in Detroit, Iacocca fashioned some of the auto industry's proudest moments, from the creation of the Ford Mustang to the 1970s-era rescue of Chrysler from bankruptcy with government help.
But a full accounting of his career must include his Lee Iacocca, forms president, CEO and chairman of Chrysler. ” width=”540″ data-mycapture-src=”https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2019/07/03/PDTF/0bae6aee-6d5a-4ace-8f8a-b896ecfd3964-dfpy32475.jpg” data-mycapture-sm-src=”https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2019/07/03/PDTF/0bae6aee-6d5a-4ace-8f8a-b896ecfd3964-dfpy32475.jpg?width=500&height=395″/> Buy Photo
Lee Iacocca, forms president, CEO and chief executive officer of Chrysler. chairman of Chrysler. (Photo: John Collier, Detroit Free Press)
Iacocca was hardly alone in these shortcomings. Virtually all of Detroit's major auto companies and their leaders moved a lockstep with him in resisting government fuel standards and in pooh-poo the appeal of the small, fuel-efficient cars offered by the likes of Toyota, Nissan and Honda.
if we remember Iacocca's accomplishments, let's not forget his career, like the record of the entire domestic auto industry, is a legitimate subject of debate.
Start with fuel economy. Beginning in the 1970s, first at Ford and later at Chrysler, Iacocca offers against legislation and regulation that would have raised fuel economy standards by cutting back on tailpipe emissions. Like other auto execs, Iacocca protested that his industry would go broke, or even shut down, if forced to obey tough new standards.
Events proved him wrong. Fuel economy has improved dramatically since early days and continues to grow as a vehicle sales.
"Mr. Iacocca's legacy on safety and environment is not very good," Dave Cooke, senior vehicle analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an email to the Free Press. "American automakers have a multi-decadal history of fighting against pretty much all regulations imposed on the industry to protect the American people, and companies under his leadership were no different."
'Safety doesn't sell'
Iacocca also downplayed the necessity for airbags and other improvements, proclaiming that safety didn't sell. Only when it became clear that safety did sell, and that Iacocca's Chrysler was ahead of that in some of its new vehicles, did it start to use the new safety features as a competitive advantage.
As Cooke added, "Mr. Iacocca may have been revered as a visionary within the auto industry, but when it comes to public health and welfare, he was always looking backwards. ”In November 1983, Lee A. Iacocca, then chairman of Chrysler Corp., The new front-wheel-drive family wagons and vans, including the Plymouth Voyager (pictured here), Dodge Caravan and Dodge Mini Ram Van. ” width=”540″ data-mycapture-src=”https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2019/07/03/PDTF/a04f92ad-9e39-4d2d-8dbe-3a57464868de-LeeIacocca_015.JPG” data-mycapture-sm-src=”https://www.gannett-cdn.com/presto/2019/07/03/PDTF/a04f92ad-9e39-4d2d-8dbe-3a57464868de-LeeIacocca_015.JPG?width=500&height=352″/> Buy Photo
In November 1983, Lee A. Iacocca, then chairman of Chrysler Corp., the company's new front-wheel-drive family wagons and vans, including the Plymouth Voyager (pictured here), Dodge Caravan and Dodge Mini Ram of (Photo: John Collier, Detroit Free Press)