Abstract: The Last Automotive Entrepreneur? Lee Iacocca Saves Chrysler, 1978–1986

Dimitry Anastakis

Abstract

This paper attempts to situate Lee Iacocca's role in the Chrysler bailout within a broader automotive entrepreneurial community, and to understand how his actions in helping Chrysler stave off bankruptcy in the 1979-1981 period helped to reshape not only the automotive industry, but business-government relations, and the very nature of "brink management" in a post-industrial America. In short, the paper attempts to answer the question of whether Iacocca fundamentally changed how automotive management operated in Detroit, or whether his actions in saving Chrysler remain an isolated, unique case within auto business history. It argues that one cannot understand Iacocca without understanding the changing pre-1980 milieu and its impact on the wider automotive industry and economy of the post-1980, post-Chrysler bailout period. Iacocca and the Chrysler situation were unique, yet they remain essential to understanding the direction of the US auto industry, and the end of American industrial hegemony more broadly.

BEH On-Line Paper