Someday, I would like to have coffee with Lee Iacocca. Although his career in the auto industry had a few downfalls, I admire him because of the difficult challenges he faced. In my opinion, Iacocca's most important accomplishment was his ability to secure $1.5 billion in US government loans to save the Chrysler Corporation.
Iacocca was known as an aggressive businessman and had a long career. While trying to revive Chrysler, Iacocca himself appeared in television commercials defending the company. Iacocca convinced celebrities and American icons to stand up for the ailing corporation, often for very little pay.
I admire Iacocca for the tough stance he took against the unfair flow of imported cars from European and Japanese companies. Iacocca argued that American cars were as good as their foreign competitors, they just suffered from bad press. Iacocca liked to say, "America isn't going to be pushed around anymore." This clever slogan had two meanings. One interpretation was that Chrysler's new cars were front wheel drive as opposed to rear wheel drive. The other meaning had to do with Japanese competition dumping cars on the US market.
Iacocca was confident that Chrysler's new cars were superior to imports and proposed ending America's loose import restrictions. Japan had strict import rules and tacked outrageous tariffs onto US cars entering their market. Iacocca argued that Japanese auto manufacturers had a clear advantage.
To further increase interest in American cars, Iacocca proposed a fuel tax. The fuel tax would support tax credits for consumers who purchased domestic cars. In simple terms, Iacocca thought the US government was letting the domestic auto industry fail. In his view, since the government created so many new emissions and efficiency laws for auto companies to meet, it was the government's responsibility to bail them out if these unfunded mandates proved to be unrealistic.
Iacocca and Chrysler feared that the government would abandon them and other domestic auto manufacturers. Luckily, President Ronald Reagan agreed that domestic auto manufacturers should be supported by the Federal Government in times of need. That opened the floodgates for Chrysler to receive the $1.5 billion it had been fighting for. After the federal loans came through, Chrysler returned to profitability and again enjoyed years of prosperity with the advent of the K-Car and Minivan.
I admire Lee Iacocca because he took personal responsibility of his plan to revive Chrysler. He was front and center in selling Chrysler's revival plan to consumers and politicians. Because of Lee Iacocca's business acumen, an American icon was saved, along with thousands of manufacturing jobs.
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