Auto executive Bob Lutz said Lee Iacocca was ‘a master salesman’


Chrysler Corp. Chmn. Lee Iacocca posing in front of full-sized clay model of the proposed Viper sports car being worked on by staff technicians in the Advanced International Design studio at the new Chrysler Tech Center.

Taro Yamasaki | The LIFE Images Collection | Getty Images

Bob Lutz, a longtime executive who worked closely with the late Lee Iacocca, called his mentor and colleague “a master salesman, brilliant communicator and extremely convincing.

“Sometimes it was dangerous to listen to him because he could make the illogical seem logical and you believed him till you walked out of the office again,” Lutz said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street ” on Wednesday — the day after Iacocca’s death. “Whether it was devising the plan, executing the plan, eliminating the obstacles or selling something that was difficult to sell, he was a master of all of those things.”

The former Ford and Chrysler executive praised Iacocca’s leadership and willingness to hear different opinions.

“Large organizations respond to leadership, not administrative heads and not managers but leaders, and Iaococca was a brilliant leader,” Lutz said, adding that he wasn’t always right and sometimes made mistakes. “He valued people who would stand up to him and explain to him when he wasn’t right and I think all strong leaders will do that because they like to get the job done, but they also like to stay out of trouble.”

Lutz was also quick to point out that though Iacocca is being remembered for pioneering the Mustang and the Minivan, his greatest achievement is still paying dividends for his former company today.

“His biggest accomplishment was in 1987 when, against all advice from Wall Street and internally and I admit I was against it, the purchase of American Motors. We barely had the cash to do it but what came with American Motors? The Jeep brand and the Jeep brand today is the goose that laid the golden egg” for Fiat Chrysler.

Lee Iacocca was 94. He is survived by two daughters and eight grandchildren.

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