Lee Iacocca was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania to Nicola and Antoinette Iacocca, Italian immigrants. His given name is Lido Anthony Iacocca.
Iacocca graduated as an industrial engineer from Lehigh University. After graduating from Lehigh, he started a career at the Ford Motor Company as an engineer. Unhappy with the actual job engineers had, he decided to pursue a career in sales for Ford. He introduced many unique ideas during the 1950s, including financing. Through these ideas, he gained respectability and moved up through the ranks of Ford. Eventually, Lee Iacocca became a senior executive at Ford, where he had been responsible for the design of the Ford Mustang, the Mercury Cougar, and the Lincoln Mark III. He also had ideas for a small compact car with front wheel drive and good gas mileage. However, this idea was rejected by Henry Ford II. Eventually Lee became the President of the Ford Motor Division, but was forced to leave in the end because of a conflict with Henry Ford.
After leaving Ford, Lee was courted by the Chrysler corporation, which was on the verge of going out of business. Lee was reluctant to make this move, but in the end, took the position. He rebuilt the entire company from the ground up, laying off many workers and bringing in his old friends from Ford, most of whom had retired. After all his cost cutting, he still realized the company would go out of business if it did not receive a significant amount of money to turn the company around. This led to him going before the United States Congress and asking for money. Most thought this was an unprecedented move, but Lee pointed to the government bail-outs of the airline and railroad industry, and argued that more jobs would be lost. In the end, he got the money from the government.
After this, Chrysler released the K-car, the small platform automobile that Ford had rejected. Coming right after the oil crisis of the 1970s, this small, inexpensive, front wheel drive car sold rapidly. In addition Chrysler released the minivan, and to this day Chrysler leads in sales of the minivan. Because of these two cars, and the reforms Iacocca had made, the company turned around quickly, and they were able to pay back the government several years earlier than expected.
Iacocca was also responsible for Chrysler acquiring AMC in the late 1980s which brought the profitable Jeep division under Chrysler. Iacocca left Chrysler in 1992, and is currently working with a company making electric bicycles.
He is the author of the bestseller Iacocca: An Autobiography (1984).