Jim Smart
April 29, 2007

The Iacocca Vision
Lee Iacocca's marketing and business instincts sent shockwaves through the company that launched his career. His vision changed everything for Ford Motor Company, because he knew how to target markets and create hot products. The Maverick became another Iacocca success story at Ford, outselling the Mustang, thanks to its practical approach and $1,995 base sticker price.

Lee was also responsible for the '74-'78 Mustang II, which enjoyed the same success as the Maverick. It was the right car at the right time, selling more than 1 million units in four years. The '79 Mustang was another success for Ford, thanks to Lee.

Toward the end of his 32-year career at Ford, Lee and ally Hal Sperlich again saw great potential in baby boomers who needed practical, roomy transportation. Lee and Hal went to Henry Ford II with a fresh idea: the minivan. Henry dismissed the idea as impractical.

When Lee left Ford in 1978, Hal and other talented people followed him to Chrysler, where Lee created a new-market phenomenon with the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan. Chrysler minivans remain best-sellers in a competitive market.

Before I met Lee three years ago for our exclusive interview in Mustang Monthly ("Iacocca Speaks Out," May '04, p.18), my perception of the retired auto executive was different than it is today. I saw Lee as a corporate big-shot who would never make time for a working-stiff automotive writer like me. It was the interview I never believed I'd get because I was told repeatedly by Lee and his Chrysler handlers for the better part of 20 years that he wasn't going to discuss the Mustang. In the latter part of 2004, he not only granted me the interview, he chatted with me in his home for two hours longer than planned, discussing everything from the Mustang to most of the challenges facing the world today.

Lee remains well grounded and close to his roots as a direct descendent of Italian immigrants. He has never forgotten the value of hard work, and at 82 years old, he continues to practice these beliefs. Fame and fortune have never gone to his head, and of all the treasures he has amassed during a lifetime of successes, it's his family he holds closest.

Mary Iacocca, Lee's wife of more than 30 years, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes shortly after they met in 1948. When complications from diabetes ultimately took her life in 1984, Lee took his grief and manifested it positively by launching The Iacocca Foundation.

"When Mary died of diabetes, my family and I began a journey to support innovative diabetes research nationwide," he says. "Twenty-two years and $230 million later, The Iacocca Foundation has supported amazing scientists and helped advance exciting research." He notes that he created JoinLeeNow to raise funds and kick research into high gear. Motivation came from an Iacocca-supported researcher who was the first to successfully reverse and cure Type 1 diabetes in mice. That breakthrough is a significant step toward finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes and may have potential for treating other diseases such as Lupus, Chrohn's, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

As part of The Iacocca Foundation's fund-raising efforts, Lee lent his name to create The Lee Iacocca Award for car clubs around the world. The Lee Iacocca Award has been conceived to honor the most committed classic-car collectors and restorers around the world, as well as raise important funding for The Iacocca Foundation.

Clubs and individuals interested in supporting the research for a diabetes cure are encouraged to contact:
The Iacocca Foundation
17 Arlington St., 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02116