Monday, 17 November 2014

Lee Iacocca - An Autobiography

You find Lee Iacocca's narration in his autobiography inspirational at times, sometimes blunt and boastful at many occasions. But then I believe, this is the charm that he possesses which he presents very well through his autobiograpy.

The autobiography of one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the history of automobile industry says his story of rise from the level of a salesman in Ford to the company's President role; a position which he retained for a period of 8 years, before being fired. Lee is the embodiment of the passion that can exist in a human for automobiles and machines. His 32 years tenure in Ford followed by his presidential stint in Chrysler made him the most renowned face in automobile industry. His popularity in Ford came face to face with that of Henry Ford. After all his years in Ford and with titles like Father of Ford Mustang rolled under his sleeves, he was fired off from the company for no apparent reason (or so he says in this autobiography).

Lee Iacocca is eventually offered the position of President in Chrysler. He accepts the same but it turns out that a bigger challenge awaits him. The company was apparently on the verge of bankruptcy and Lee was approached as Chrysler's management saw that he possessed the prowess to steer Chrysler through these tough times. Nevertheless, he accepts the challenge and makes a deal with the government. This is not a norm in a capitalistic society and is not taken very well by the other automobile companies. He is frowned upon by many industry leaders for this step. With all big names against him, he manages to make Chrysler dance again and pay back his loan way ahead of it’s time.

The autobiography presents to us in its pages the life of one of the automobile industry moguls. His humble upbringing in a immigrant Italian family, his passion for cars and sales. The parts where he writes about how he eventually went on to the position of being the President of Ford is plausible. His relationship with his father and the advice that he gets from him are wonderful narratives written with a lot of emotion. When he explains how the world reacted to him, when he approaches the US Congress to take a loan to bail out Chrysler seems very credible. He bluntly accepts his mistakes and is not defensive about everything he did.

It all goes good. Since it is an autobiography, you have to give it to him. He will of course be justifying his steps, whether it is the large number of lay offs he does at Chrysler or his decision to approach the United States Congress. So it is all acceptable.

However, as a reader I was overwhelmed at his justification for firing a large number of employees at Chrysler. Iacocca's justification of laying off employees to bring the company back to his feet could be agreed upon, but this is preceded by how he and his family were devastated when he was fired from Ford; and how he holds Henry Ford responsible for his fall. He goes on to call names to Henry Ford and writes about an episode where Henry Ford ran away from a party on seeing him. As an ardent reader I was a little sceptic of these episodes. I would definitely look forward to read the Henry Ford’s side of the story.

Nevertheless, this is an inspirational autobiography. Lee Iacocca imparts practical knowledge of sales and automobiles through this book. His innovative ways of sales and distinctive decision making capabilities will make you flip through the pages. 

The last chapter of the book was devoted on road safety. This I thought was a very important message coming from an automobile industry leader. 

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