This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," June 22, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: On a day of a big sell-off, trying to go back to the past for a big hero. And he is arguably one of America's greatest CEOs, and, among U.S. automakers, its most legendary, the man who turned around a company and whose good car sense turned around a country and wowed a world, a man so lionized for running that company that many wanted him running this country. So, they pushed him to run for president, but Lee Iacocca said no.
Then they pushed for him for vice president. But Lee Iacocca said no. Begged for him to head up scores of companies, and Iacocca said no. Wanted him to speak out on his old industry, and Lee Iacocca again said no.
And then we called to talk about something 45 years in the making. And, this time, for this broadcast, and only on this broadcast, and for this 45th special anniversary, Lee Iacocca said yes.
Welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto.
And he is the man on whom all comebacks are judged and all corporate turnarounds are scored, because no one faced what Lee Iacocca faced at Chrysler or had to lift a nation's spirits like this guy did back in 1980.
But, today, we are not here to talk about Chrysler or history. We are here about maybe remaking history — and not at Chrysler, but Ford, where Lee first made his mark at 45 years ago, an American icon. It was the 1964 World's Fair in New York. And an up-and-coming much-talked-about auto executive was showcasing something called the Ford Mustang. The world was smitten. And a corporate star was born.
And, now, 45 years later, both are back. What's that they say? For a limited time only. And, right now, only here, Lee Iacocca on the phone from Los Angeles.
Lee, very good to have you.
LEE IACOCCA, FORMER CHAIRMAN & CEO, CHRYSLER CORPORATION: Hello, Neil. How are you?
CAVUTO: I'm good. Now the Mustang, and Mr. Chrysler is Mr. Ford. I — I am shaking my head.
IACOCCA: Well, that's — remember, I spent 32 years at Ford...
CAVUTO: You did, indeed.
IACOCCA: ... and only 16 at Chrysler.
CAVUTO: Absolutely. Absolutely.
It is a little startling, because you are going to be the namesake behind what will be a very limited-edition Mustang. Could you explain that?
IACOCCA: Yes, just — it's 40 — it's the 45th anniversary of the Mustang. So, we want to celebrate it, and we came up with a new product built on the wonderful present Mustang, which we used as our base car, the 2009 Mustang.
And what we tried to bring to it is the new style. We added a Fastback edition. That's what this is. It was a styling exercise that turned out a very stunning product.
And we decided to share that with 50, 45 — 45 cars. That is all we're going to build for the 45th anniversary.
CAVUTO: So, there are only 45 of these, and they're all going to be silver; is that it?
IACOCCA: Yes, all silver, Silver Edition.
CAVUTO: All right. So, no red ones?
IACOCCA: No red ones.
I would like a candy apple red one my myself, but I think I will pass for a while.
CAVUTO: You know, this raised eyebrows across the globe today, Lee, A. Because it is where you got your roots. And it is where you spent so much of your career, but it is Ford. And this is the Mustang, perhaps the last, most celebrated car in American history.
What do you make of that?
IACOCCA: Well, tremendous success, greatest — in my 50 years in the auto business, that was the — the peak of it. And it was a great car. It's become a cult vehicle, really.
CAVUTO: It did. It did.
CAVUTO: Did you think it would be that big?
CAVUTO: Because many have argued, even to today, that we need cars like that to get people dreaming that Americans can do this sort of stuff.
IACOCCA: That's what we hope the new version will do, have people dreaming, not talking about the doom and gloom of the auto business, and getting back to some great cars. And we're starting with a great platform. The present-day Mustang 2009 is a fantastic car.
All we will do is restyle it a little bit, and put in some touches. And I didn't do this alone out here, by the way. It's two years in the making.
IACOCCA: I happened to run into old friends. The leading dealer in the world for Ford is Galpin Volvo in Van Nuys, a neighbor here. They have taken over the sales and marketing of this new product. Even though there are only 45, it should be a big a big introduction.
CAVUTO: Now, how much is each car, these 45 cars that are going out? How much will it cost you for each one?
IACOCCA: Well, the nominal price will be probably between $60,000 and $65,000. But, since it's a limited edition, there will be a lot of transactions higher than that, people bidding, almost auction-like, to get a — probably a collector's item.
Don't want to oversell it to you on the telephone, Neil, but...
CAVUTO: Well, no, I only ask because, you know, Sean Hannity was asking me: How much will it be, and how do I place my order?
But I did want to ask you, though, Lee, I mean, that — that sort of was the great — the last great American iconic auto success.
IACOCCA: Oh, that — that is...
CAVUTO: The rap — the rap against America carmakers is that they haven't done anything that great since. Do you agree with that?
IACOCCA: Well, you know, the foreign carmakers never came up with a jeep or a minivan, but they certainly never touched base on a — on a Mustang. They have never come up with something to compete with it.
So, we are capable of doing great cars. And let's hope this commemorative model will maybe re-instill a little of that in everybody, that the American car industry has to be helped through this travail that they're going through. And we thought it would be — I — I told you a couple of times I came out of retirement.
This is my third time I came out of retirement to do something, but this is the labor of love, because the Mustang was beyond anybody's expectations, anybody's.
CAVUTO: Well, you know what people are going to say the first time they hear this? You're right. You spent so much, the majority of your career, at Ford, but you — you are seen as the man who turned around an auto giant Chrysler. And they're going to look at that and say, that's odd. He's — he's popping up at Ford, a company that had nothing to do with any of these rescues, in fact, eschewed all the...
IACOCCA: Well, I turned 84 years old. I had to do something.
IACOCCA: So, I decided — by the way, I'm having fun doing this. It's been two years in the making, but it's turned out to be a stunning product. I — I think you have seen it, I mean, not — not live...
CAVUTO: It is — it is — it is beautiful.
But, you know, you could have gone to those other guys, I guess, if they came up with something...
IACOCCA: Well, no, I wanted to do — I wanted to take the Mustang platform. That was the greatest achievement of my whole career, my whole life, actually.
So, it's still a great car. And we want to add to that luster, and we hope to sell 45 cars that will become collector's items.
CAVUTO: Do we have anything on the scene like the Mustang today?
IACOCCA: Today? Offhand, you know, it would be tough to name one that would match it. There are some great cars out there, of course, but - - and — but I can't think of one that would compete with it in any way today.
CAVUTO: Because you know the new push is going to be making maybe Mustangs that are super fuel-efficient, in other words, that the dream car of the future is something with that pizzazz, but even better gas mileage.
Can the two be reconciled?
IACOCCA: Well, we — we should do plug-in hybrids on everything. Some day, you should be able to do that with a Mustang.
We're starting with the — Ford's power train, and their engines are great, of course, their V-8s. We're using both their V-8s, one at 320 horsepower. And we limited the options at 400 horsepower, which is plenty.
CAVUTO: But there would never be a plug-in Mustang. That would sound stupid.
CAVUTO: We don't want to do that to the Mustang. I think it's an insult to Mustangs.
IACOCCA: No, but there will be some electric cars that...
CAVUTO: Yes. An electric Mustang?
IACOCCA: Yes, there could — there could be.
IACOCCA: There could be.
CAVUTO: We were not going to — we had agreed to talk about this, so I wanted to see this in the big-picture sense, that it's stuff like this that is going to be the American carmakers' future and key to their success.
Do you buy that, that, unless there are more Mustangs out there, unless there are products that people clearly hunger and desire, and almost crave, that the American car industry as we know it, whether rescued or not rescued, is just not going to succeed?
IACOCCA: I agree with that. They have got to get more current.
They — I hope — I hope to Fiat will help Chrysler, for example. They do have tremendous small engines and small cars. And that should handle the green community for now. But the Mustang is the, you know, rear-wheel drive, fantastic performing car, has been...
IACOCCA: ... for 45 years, and you don't want to do too much to change the character of the car.
CAVUTO: Yes. Well, here you are, you're still pitching stuff. You're still doing a commercial.
So, let me ask you this.
IACOCCA: At my age...
IACOCCA: What — I didn't give you a commercial.
CAVUTO: There you go. But you're still a guy...
IACOCCA: I wish I — I wish I could take — I always ask — I have told you this — what do you do at the end of an interview? Ask for the order.
IACOCCA: But I don't — I don't want to sell too many Mustangs...
CAVUTO: There you go. Well — well put.
But, you know, this is a car guy getting behind a car brand. What do you think of non-car guys getting behind car brands?
IACOCCA: What do you mean by a non-car guy?
CAVUTO: Government guys.
IACOCCA: Well, they will have to learn, I guess.
They will have ownership on — of two or three companies. Now, Ford - - Ford, they don't have ownership there, because Ford never took any kind of guarantee or — or bailout money.
CAVUTO: But do you think they can do what you did, that they can come up with the brands and the names and the...
IACOCCA: Yes. Why not?
CAVUTO: ... sort of the sexy...
IACOCCA: Why not? New breed of young people. As I told you when — at 84, I'm not thinking that way much anymore.
CAVUTO: But can a new breed of young government people or older government people do that, do what you did...
CAVUTO: ... do what you're trying to do?
IACOCCA: No. It would be folly to try to run the car business from Washington. Impossible. They have to own up to that early.
CAVUTO: But they are.
IACOCCA: Well, they will have ownership. The union will have ownership, for example, some of these companies.
CAVUTO: So, you're hopeful with Ford?
IACOCCA: Yes, I'm hopeful with Ford especially.
They have done real well, by the way, recently. By taking no money, they — they're almost clairvoyant. Mr. Mulally has done a fantastic job at Ford.
CAVUTO: So, you're optimistic with what you see about a company that hasn't been rescued, less so for those that have?
IACOCCA: Probably. Don't know for certain with that statement, you know?
CAVUTO: All right.
Lee Iacocca, a real pleasure. Best of luck on this venture.
Bill O'Reilly said put him down for three.
IACOCCA: For him, right.
CAVUTO: Put him down for three.
IACOCCA: Can he finance them?
CAVUTO: I think he's got the money.
IACOCCA: Three is a couple hundred thousand dollars. But you guys get paid highly in your business, right?
CAVUTO: He does. He does. I just found out the other...
IACOCCA: How about...
CAVUTO: No, I found out the other anchors are getting paid, Lee. So, I — that kind of ticked me off.
IACOCCA: The last great Italian I'm talking to is you. I'm...
CAVUTO: This is like the mutual Italian admiration society.
Lee, best of luck with this. I can't wait to see the finished product. It looks phenomenal.
IACOCCA: We will have you drive one quickly, OK?
CAVUTO: Yes. Well, you know, you might not trust me with the keys, because you might not get them back.
CAVUTO: Lee Iacocca, a real pleasure. Thank you very much.
IACOCCA: You, too, Neil. It was good to talk to you.
Stay well, by the way.
CAVUTO: You, too.
Lee Iacocca, arguably one of the best CEOs this country has ever had or will ever have.
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