Iacocca: An Autobiography

Lee Iacocca, William Novak
Biography, Business, Non-Fiction
Pages: 357
Suggested By: Ramit Sethi
Date Started: February 21, 2017
Date Finished: March 1, 2017

My Thoughts

Lee Iacocca was the president of Ford and the chairman of Chrysler in the 70’s and 80’s. He was before my time, so I had never heard of Iacocca, but I have definitely seen his work. He was instrumental in the development of the Ford Mustang, being called the “Father of the Mustang.” That was my dream car when I was 16 years old.

Iacocca: An Autobiography was fascinating on a number of levels. First, it didn’t follow the typical business management book style of 10 steps to greatness. The chapters followed Iacocca’s life. In the process, I ended up learning about the auto industry, balance between labor & management, government loan bailouts, inherited power, good economies/bad economies, oil crises, foreign competition, governmental subsidies, and Henry Ford II, all in an intriguing story format.

Iacocca provided a deep look inside 1970s Ford and 1980s Chrysler. It was not pretty. I guess I have the notion that companies are more or less run in an efficient manner. This was definitely not the case with these two companies and the level of incompetence and waste was quite astounding.

This book also challenged my thoughts about government bailouts and loan assistance programs. On the whole, I think business should be left alone as much as possible and that they should definitely not be bailed out by tax payers. But Iacocca lays out a number of arguments as to why it was in the best interest of the US Government to provide a $1 billion loan guarantee to Chrysler. In the end, it was a great deal for the government as they took little risk, helped Chrysler keep going while they got their house back in order, and as a reward, were paid back by Chrysler in record time.

The last portion of Iacocca: An Autobiography, lays out a plan for the future. Mind you, this book was written in 1984, but the relevancy couldn’t be more immediate. The final chapter of the book is called “Making America Great Again.” Does that sound familiar? At times, it seemed I was reading from Donald Trump’s playbook. Iacocca covered his positions on the distinction between free and fair trade, currency manipulation (for Iacocca, it was Japan, for Trump, China), and requiring additional defense spending of other countries. It actually helped me understand some of Donald Trump’s positions.

Ramit Sethi recommended this book in Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans. He said he reads it every 2 years and has done so for 20 years. This is a business book, but not in the typical business book format. The autobiographical story format presents the lessons in a much more memorable way than “the 10 things to do to create a best-selling car.” Midway through reading this book, I purchased a copy for my dad. He loves cars and I know he will get a big kick out of reading it.

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