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He guarantees it

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Whatever happened to...
Lee Iacocca

These days you can find Lee Iacocca — or at least a picture of him — leaning back in cyberspace, jacket slung over the back of his chair, hands behind his head, confident salesman’s smile on his lips. “Find the equipment you need here, I guarantee it,” he’s quoted as saying, as he solicits your bid at Online Asset Exchange! That’s where you can pick up a used Roberts Vertical 8 Stage Indexing Broach Machine or a Traub CNC Turning Lathe Model TND-360 or similar goodies from a reported inventory worth $12 billion. You can snap these up at a live, Web-only auction, no less.

Not that being the only board member pictured at Online Asset’s site is enough to keep Lido busy, even at age 77. He’s also peddling an electric-muscle power hybrid bicycle, the E-bike (starting price $995), and probably trying to forget such less-successful, post-Chrysler ventures as the Koo Koo Roo fast-food chicken chain.

Now, while we try not to overanalyze the results of the Best Of Detroit contest, we can’t help but thinking that curiosity about Ol’ Lee is directly related to the sad fate of the company he once saved. Iacocca’s crowning acts of salesmanship were: 1) Persuading Congress and the president to pony up a $1.5 billion bailout package to save Chrysler from bankruptcy in 1979; and 2) selling the company’s products to wary consumers with his personal guarantee.

But that was before presiding over another downhill Chrysler slide before his 1992 exit. And before his role in a failed takeover bid that drove the company into the warm, protective arms of Daimler-Benz, as Bill Vlasic and Bradley A. Stertz recount in Taken for a Ride. And we’re still finding out how far downhill that road goes.

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