Lee Iacocca: The Car Guy Who Could Count Beans

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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21 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    Mr. Iacocca was an important leader in the automobile industry during the sunset of Detroit. When he started, Detroit was the world leader in car production. By the time he finished, it was clearly in decline. He tried to change things, but the tide ran the other way. Was he effective? He certainly enjoyed great personal success, but did his works benefit our nation ultimately? What is the proper role of the government in intervention of economic activity? There are complex questions to think about.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Mark says:

      Chrysler is still around today. I think there’s an important distinction between propping up a company (or industry) that couldn’t survive on its own and making a short-term loan to one that’s currently short of funds but able to recover from that. The 2008 bailout of the financial industry is yet another category: staving off worldwide economic devastation.Report

  2. They were called spreadsheets even before they were computerized.Report

  3. Oscar Gordon says:

    Bean counters and engineers are two sides of the product development coin. And whenever one side overly controls the process, things go sideways.Report

  4. Mike Dwyer says:

    I would quibble over the Explorer being Ford’s version of the Jeep. The Explorer didn’t come out until 1990. The Ford Bronco came out in 1965. This is probably a locale thing but Broncos were waaaay more popular in Louisville and every kid knew the difference. Daisy Duke drove a Jeep 😉Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Uhm… The Ford version of the Jeep is called the GPW.

      The Willys MB and the Ford GPW, both formally called the U.S. Army Truck, ​1⁄4-ton, 4×4, Command Reconnaissance,[2][3] commonly known as Jeep or jeep,[4] and sometimes referred to as G503,[nb 3] were highly successful off-road capable, light, military utility vehicles, built in large numbers to a standardized design, from 1941 to 1945, for the Allied forces in World War II. WikipediaReport

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Aaron David says:

        I assumed Vikram was talking about a post-war civillian off-road vehicle. The Bronco was intended to compete with the Jeep CJ-5. If my memory is correct the Bronco II was when the market started shifting to SUVs.

        I will also say, as the owner of two SUVs, I love them. 90% of the time it’s plenty of cargo room and I like that I don’t have to worry about my gear getting wet. My front wheel drive CRV is nearly impossible to get stuck and I drive it through a lot of muddy cow pastures. My only complaint on modern SUVs is that the ground clearance keeps getting lower and they are making the interiors a bit less rugged. My 2011 is a workhorse though. Seriously the best vehicle I have owned.Report

        • Aaron David in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Well, the internet loves nothing more than a pedant…

          But I agree with you on the SUV front. The wife’s vehicle is a Subaru Outback and I have a shell on my Frontier. The room combined with security is just a winning combo. I do agree with the rugged interior issue also. I long for the days of just hosing out my truck. I grew up with my parents having a convertible (the apocryphal ’66 Mustang) and a mini truck. Not the most convenient pairing. Maybe that is why I am such a long-roof fan.Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to Aaron David says:

            The truck with topper combo is real popular with the hunting community for the hose-out factor but everytime I look at the mpg on a V6 I have a panic attack.Report

            • George Turner in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              I thought the whole point of making a clean shot is so you didn’t need the hose.

              <– Learned everything about hunting from an article in The New YorkerReport

        • DensityDuck in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          “My only complaint on modern SUVs is that the ground clearance keeps getting lower and they are making the interiors a bit less rugged.”

          That’s because most modern SUVs are minivans (“crossovers”) or station wagons (“mini-SUV”).

          See, Vikram suggests that the day of the minivan is over, but I don’t agree. Suburban families will always need a road-only vehicle with a highly-usable interior that has flexible seating. Originally that was a full-size car with a filled-out trunk space (station wagon), then it was the minivan, now it’s an SUV-looking platform but built on a car body instead of a truck.Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to DensityDuck says:

            We have several friends and family that are in that stage of life. Whether they go the SUV or the van route seems to depend mostly on whether they have something to pull (camper or boat). If they do, the husbands usually convincr the wife an SUV can work. My sister and BIL have never had to pull anything so they are a committed van family.

            We always had an SUV because we just had the two kids but on vacations where we rented a van, the extra space felt incredibly decadent.Report

          • Suburban families will always need a road-only vehicle with a highly-usable interior that has flexible seating.

            I would add “occasionally” in there somewhere. Over the life of such vehicles, the large majority of trips driven — some estimates are >95% — would have been served perfectly well by something like my Honda Fit. I suspect that the day will come within my lifetime that most Americans won’t have the luxury of vehicle shopping using the 5% extreme cases as the criteria.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

              Should we ever get autonomous on-demand car services, most people won’t need to shop for the edge cases.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                counterproposal: if we get autonomous on-demand car services everything will be a minivan, because passengers won’t need to worry about storing a vehicle sized for the edge case, and fleet operators who will be living and dying on the thinnest of dimes will care very much about the operational efficiencies of a single-type inventory.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Don’t forget Mahindra, which has been making Jeeps in India since 1947, and which now makes the Roxor in Detroit.

      The big difference is that Mahindra’s US offerings have a 5-slot grill and Jeeps always have a 7-slot grill. Jeep wouldn’t let Mahindra sell a vehicle with a 7-slot grill in the US.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Good lord, y’all. I was just saying that my son recognizes the Jeep Wrangler, not that it is the only Jeep that matters or that the Explorer wasn’t meant to compete with the Grand Cherokee rather than the Wrangler.

      That said, I love every one of you who participated in this conversationReport

  5. Damon says:

    “And then Elon Musk went ahead and actually did it.”

    Yeah, no. Tesla isn’t a car company. It hardly produces any quantity that could be consider mass production. And their not that reliable. Tesla makes $ from carbon credits. How many folks buy 80K roadsters that go less than 200 miles? Can they even match quantities that 2nd or 3rd rate car companies churn out?Report