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Lee Iacocca. Photo: Taro Yamasaki/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

Lee Iacocca, the cigar-chomping auto industry icon who invented the Ford Mustang and later saved Chrysler from bankruptcy, has died. He was 94.

Why it matters: The hard-charging Iacocca was the United States' most famous CEO and corporate pitchman in the 1980s, fiercely competitive and a symbol of the American auto industry's triumphs and challenges, Automotive News writes in a comprehensive obituary.

  • In the early '80s, Iacocca ranked behind only President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in a Gallup-poll list of the world’s most respected men, according to the Washington Post, and his self-titled 1984 memoir was a best-seller for 38 weeks.

Iacocca's salesmanship was legendary: "If you can find a better car, buy it" and "Buy a car, get a check."

His big gamble at Ford — bringing the low-priced but sleekly styled Mustang "pony car" to market in 1964 — was a smash that put his career on the fast track.

  • He was famously fired by Henry Ford II in 1979, but then scooped up almost immediately by Chrysler, which was in desperate need of a turnaround.
  • In 1980 he persuaded Congress to approve federal loan guarantees of $1.5 billion, then restored Chrysler profitability and paid the money back 7 years early — with interest.
  • Along the way, he hit another home run — the family hauling minivan.

The cause of his death on Tuesday was complications from Parkinson’s disease, his daughter Lia Iacocca Assad told WashPost.

Go deeper

The modern way to hire a big-city police chief

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

When it comes to picking a city's top cop, closed-door selection processes have been replaced by highly public exercises where everyone gets to vet the candidates — who must have better community-relations skills than ever.

Why it matters: In the post-George-Floyd era, with policing under utmost scrutiny, the choosing of a police chief has become something akin to an election, with the need to build consensus around a candidate. And the candidate pool has gotten smaller.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
40 mins ago - Economy & Business

Speculative crypto art market takes off

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Move over, GameStop. The newest speculative game in town is NFTs — digital files that can be owned and traded on a plethora of new online platforms.

Why it matters: Most NFTs include some kind of still or moving image, which makes them similar to many physical art objects. Some of them, including a gif of Nyan Cat flying through the sky with a pop-tart body and rainbow trail, can be worth more than your house.

New coronavirus cases fall by 20%

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections continued their sharp decline over the past week, and are now back down to pre-Thanksgiving levels.

The big picture: Given the U.S.’ experience over the past year, it can be hard to trust anything that looks like good news, without fearing that another shoe is about to drop. But the U.S. really is doing something right lately. Cases are way down, vaccinations are way up, and that’s going to save a lot of lives.