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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

44 mins ago - World

South Africa says it's being "punished" for detecting new COVID variant

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly on September 22, 2021 in New York City. Photo: Eduardo Munoz - Pool/Getty Images)

South Africa said Saturday it's being "punished" for detecting the new Omicron coronavirus variant as more countries rush to enact travel bans and restrictions.

Driving the news: The U.S. imposed air travel restrictions from eight countries Friday in response to the Omicron variant. Countries in Europe and Asia have also implemented their own travel restrictions in response to Omicron.

Trump can't quit mainstream media

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa are interviewed by Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" in September. Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC via Getty Images

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa issued a rebuttal on Friday to a statement by former President Donald Trump that misrepresented their reporting — and once again showed the 45th president's thin skin about mainstream media.

Driving the news: "Former President Trump said ... our book, 'Peril,' implied that he was planning to go to war with China," the statement begins. "[W]e report that Chairman of Joint Chiefs Mark Milley 'believed that Trump did not want a war' before or after the 2020 election."

NY declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron COVID variant

Governor Kathy Hochul makes an announcement about a new plan transforming Penn Station on Nov. 3, 2021. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday declared a state of emergency amid rising COVID-19 cases and the newly-identified Omicron variant of the virus.

Driving the news: The declaration enables the state to acquire supplies to fight a potential surge in cases, increase hospital capacity and combat potential staff shortages, NBC's local affiliate reports.