Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 16

16

* JULY 2019

LEE
IACOCCA
1924-2019

HIS CANADIAN

LEGACY
Ontario Chrysler plants
owe their existence to
this storied executive
By JOHN IRWIN
TORONTO BUREAU

LEE IACOCCA, THE ICONIC
executive who bet big on the minivan and steered Chrysler through its
rescue and turnaround in the 1980s,
leaves behind a legacy in Canada that
few people in automotive history can
match.
Under Iacocca, Chrysler launched
its Plymouth Voyager and Dodge
Caravan minivans in 1983, effectively creating the segment and establishing the automaker as the leader.
Minivans have been built at the company's Windsor, Ont., assembly plant
ever since.
Flavio Volpe, president of the
Automotive Parts Manufacturers'
Association, said Iacocca's decision to
launch the minivan "to a great degree
saved Chrysler."
"Its allocation in Windsor and in
St. Louis created the base for Chrysler
today in Canada," said Volpe. "There
is no longer a plant in St. Louis, which
closed in 2008, but that product was
segment-defining. And it sustained
generations, especially in the Windsor
area but also in the wider Ontario supplier community that thinks minivan,
works minivan, sweats minivan and
feeds their family on it."
Iacocca died on July 2 at his home

in Bel Air,
Calif., at the
age of 94. In
the outpouring
of tributes and
remembrances that
followed, the brash,
straight-talking executive was hailed for shaping the images of two American
automakers - he spearheaded
the launch of the Ford Mustang -
and defining what it meant to be a
modern-day CEO.
Iacocca's legacy in Canada
extends well beyond Windsor
and the minivans built there. In
Brampton, Ont., Iacocca "made a
real commitment to that plant,"
which became part of Chrysler
with the purchase of American
Motors Corp., in August 1987,
Volpe said. The plant underwent
a major retooling with the installation of the LH platform that
would launch such vehicles as the
Chrysler Concorde, Dodge Intrepid
and Eagle Vision in June 1992, and
in later years, the rebirth of the
Chrysler 300.
"I think that decision is as
important to Brampton and the
wider [Greater Toronto Area] as the
minivan was to Windsor," Volpe
said.
After clashing with Henry Ford
II and being fired from Ford Motor
Co., Iacocca was brought on as
COO of Chrysler in 1978 at a time
when the automaker was on the
brink of bankruptcy. Less than

Lee Iacocca launches the segment-defining minivan at the Windsor
Assembly Plant in 1983. P H O T O : F C A

The allocation
of the Dodge,
Chrysler and
Plymouth
minivans for
assembly in
Windsor, Ont.,
helped secure
Chrysler Corp.'s
footprint in
Canada.
FILE PHOTO

The 1993 Chrysler Concorde was among the LH vehicles produced at the
Brampton, Ont., assembly plant. P H O T O : F C A

his first several years at Chrysler
were marked by belt-tightening,
Iacocca went on a spending spree in
the latter half of the decade. Chrysler
bought up many companies, such as
Lamborghini and American Motors,
including American Motors Corp.'s
RESTRUCTURING BLUEPRINT
prized Jeep brand.
Jim McManes, owner of McManes
A federal rescue was unprecedentAutomotive Group in Calgary, bought
ed at the time, but it would serve as
Eastside Dodge in 1987, at a time
a template for Chrysler and General
when Chrysler was beginning to
Motors during the 2008-09 economflourish on the sucic collapse, when
cess of the minivan.
both automakers
"He single-handwere bailed out
edly rescued the
by the federal govcompany.
ernments of the
"The biggest
United States and
thing he did for us
Canada, as well as
as Chrysler dealers,
the Ontario government. Volpe, who at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles says was when he bought
American Motors.
the time was chief
it continues to dominate the
"A lot of people
of staff for then-Eco- minivan segment with more
said he was crazy,
nomic Development than 14.6 million vehicles
but Jeep's our stronMinister Sandra
sold globally since 1983,
gest brand right
Pupatello, said
and remains the leader with
now. If we didn't
54-per-cent market share in
Iacocca's plan for
have that, it would
saving Chrysler was Canada in 2018. P H O T O : F C A
be tough."
influential on lawVolpe said Iacocca, who retired in
makers.
1992, "was as tall a giant as we ever
"Having been part of the restrucproduced in North America.
turing negotiations of 2009 and '10,
"This guy, you could probably
we studied very deeply '79, '80 and
memorialize, and his story should be
'81," he said. "Out of the ministry
taught to every auto executive."
we led ... efforts to establish what
- ANC
Ontario's position is, negotiate it and
get the type of assurances both from
- Doug Firby, Grace Macaluso
Chrysler and General Motors."
and David Phillips contributed
Chrysler soon turned around
to this report.
under Iacocca, posting a record profit of US $2.38 billion in 1984. While
a year later, he became CEO and
successfully lobbied U.S. President
Jimmy Carter and Congress for a
US $1.5-billion loan guarantee. In
return, the automaker found about
US $2 billion in cost reductions.



Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2

Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - Intro
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 1
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 2
Automotive News Canada - July 2019 - v2 - 3
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