A Mixed Bag – A bit of everything under the sun

Iacocca: An Autobiography – Book Review

Posted on: June 24, 2010


Author: Lee Iacocca

Category: Autobiography

Rating: ★★

I had heard rave reviews about this book and I’d been wanting to read it since a long time. So, when i found one in a Goodwill store, I was very excited. After reading the book however, I must say I’m a bit disappointed.

The book is interesting no doubt, but I disliked the man. That is partly why I disliked him – because the book is interesting. Are you thinking I’m nuts? Let me explain. Iacocca has spun a fascinating drama in the book. To the extent that it seems staged and dishonest. Every chapter leaves the story hanging at such a strategic point that you can sometimes mistake it for a suspense thriller! That seems to be the very intent of the book: to be a page turner and make money than be an honest autobiography. Once you figure out that he has weaved the words and events just to get your emotions flowing, you will grimace everytime you spot it in the book.

The book was written to get back at Henry Ford and lash back at anybody in his life who opposed Iacocca. And make money while doing so. It seems rather childish that he spends quarter of the book vilifying Ford. While I do not know how Ford really was, I definitely will not take Iacocca’s word for it. Iacocca’s views are totally one-sided, he paints a perfect picture of himself and tries to give you the impression that he was a victim in so many circumstances. Please! He says he did not mind when Ford fired him, but cannot forgive him for the effect it had on its wife and kids. Very understandable. His family would have definitely been distraught and that can upset any man. Your heart goes out to him, sure. But when he goes on to fire a lot of people, it is either out of pressure or because of sheer necessity. Sure, as a higher up that is part of his job. But when he does that don’t the fired people have wife and kids too? Why should he bring up his family being affected if not to just get your sympathy? That’s plain hypocrisy.

In the beginning of the book, Iacocca has to mention that the profits from the book go to a diabetes research foundation. Good job, Lee! Did you mention that there so that we say so? I’ve heard a proverb which says even the left hand should not know about the charity given by the right hand. If you’re using it to leverage your image, please don’t call it charity. And somebody mentioned on Amazon that this is a trick to get tax breaks!

These are just some subtle instances which give an insight into his personality. The man cannot accept any opinion other than his own. He remembers every single statement that has ever been made against him. He doesn’t fail to mention it in his book and argue about why that is untrue. Place an obstacle in his way and you are sure to be slandered in the book! He gives you pages of justification for the reason he agreed to making commercials lest you get the false impression that he was hankering for publicity. He has an entire chapter devoted to external circumstances that are aiding Japan, but his ego cannot let him accept once that their quality of cars may be far better.

To his credit, I must say he is an inspirational leader with street smarts and presence of mind. Some of his views that appear here and there about running a business and being a leader are sensible and true. His pointers about good communication, vocabulary etc are noteworthy. For me, who doesn’t know much about cars, it was interesting to learn about all the models that were built in a chronological order, how they were marketed etc. The challenges he faced on joining Chrysler were interesting to read. The Chrysler section was far more interesting and real than his narration of years at Ford. He is a dynamic leader, just a little too egoistic for my taste.

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