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Italians Whom Have Impacted Our Lives, Our Art, Our Architecture, Our Education, Our Science, Our Food, Our Cooking, Our Driving, Our Fashion, Our Entertainment, Our Intellect,
|There are many, many Italians whom throughout history have had significant impact on our world - the list of over 90 biographies (in the animated list to the left) and those below shall continue to be expanded over time - if you do not see your favorite Italian, kindly send us a note and we shall endeavor to add them to this reference --|
Architect, Artist, Sculptor (1598–1680)
Born in Naples in 1598
Birth Date - 7 December 1598
Died - 28 November 1680
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was an Italian sculptor and architect. While a major figure in the world of architecture, he was the leading sculptor of his age, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. As one scholar has commented, "What Shakespeare is to drama, Bernini may be to sculpture: the first pan-European sculptor whose name is instantaneously identifiable with a particular manner and vision, and whose influence was inordinately powerful...." In addition, he was a painter (mostly small canvases in oil) and a man of the theater: he wrote, directed and acted in plays (mostly Carnival satires), also designing stage sets and theatrical machinery, as well as a wide variety of decorative art objects including lamps, tables, mirrors, and even coaches. As architect and city planner, he designed both secular buildings and churches and chapels, as well as massive works combining both architecture and sculpture, especially elaborate public fountains and funerary monuments and a whole series of temporary structures (in stucco and wood) for funerals and festivals.
Bernini possessed the ability to depict dramatic narratives with characters showing intense psychological states, but also to organize large-scale sculptural works which convey a magnificent grandeur. His skill in manipulating marble ensured that he would be considered a worthy successor of Michelangelo, far outshining other sculptors of his generation, including his rivals, François Duquesnoy and Alessandro Algardi. His talent extended beyond the confines of sculpture to a consideration of the setting in which it would be situated; his ability to synthesize sculpture, painting, and architecture into a coherent conceptual and visual whole has been termed by the art historian Irving Lavin the "unity of the visual arts". In addition, a deeply religious man, working in Counter Reformation Rome, Bernini used light both as an important theatrical and metaphorical device in his religious settings, often using hidden light sources that could intensify the focus of religious worship or enhance the dramatic moment of a sculptural narrative.
Bernini was also a leading figure in the emergence of Roman Baroque architecture along with his contemporaries, the architect Francesco Borromini and the painter and architect Pietro da Cortona. Early in their careers they had all worked at the same time at the Palazzo Barberini, initially under Carlo Maderno and, following his death, under Bernini. Later on, however, they were in competition for commissions, and fierce rivalries developed, particularly between Bernini and Borromini.
Despite the arguably greater architectural inventiveness of Borromini and Cortona, Bernini's artistic pre-eminence, particularly during the reigns of popes Urban VIII (1623–44) and Alexander VII (1655–65), meant he was able to secure the most important commissions in the Rome of his day, the various massive embellishment projects of the newly finished St. Peter's Basilica, completed under Pope Paul V with the addition of Maderno's nave and facade and finally re-consecrated by Pope Urban VIII on 18 November 1626, after 150 years of planning and building. Bernini's design of the Piazza San Pietro in front of the Basilica is one of his most innovative and successful architectural designs. Within the basilica he is also responsible for the Baldacchino, the decoration of the four piers under the cupola, the Cathedra Petri or Chair of St. Peter in the apse, the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the right nave, and the decoration (floor, walls and arches) of the new nave.
During his long career, Bernini received numerous important commissions, many of which were associated with the papacy. At an early age, he came to the attention of the papal nephew, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, and in 1621, at the age of only twenty-three, he was knighted by Pope Gregory XV. Following his accession to the papacy, Urban VIII is reported to have said, "It is a great fortune for you, O Cavaliere, to see Cardinal Maffeo Barberini made pope, but our fortune is even greater to have Cavalier Bernini alive in our pontificate." Although he did not fare so well during the reign of Innocent X, under Alexander VII, he once again regained pre-eminent artistic domination and continued to be held in high regard by Clement IX.
Leonardo da Vinci
Artist, Scientist,Mathematician, Inventor, Author
Most people associated Leonardo da Vinci for his artwork of The Last Supper
and Mona Lisa paintings but this
Italian was the epitome of the Renaissance.
Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
Michelangelo, the "Father and Master of All the Arts" is widely regarded as the most famous artist of the Italian Renaissance. Among his works are the "David" and "Pieta" statues and the Sistine Chapel frescoes.
Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy. Born to a family of moderate means in the banking business, Michelangelo became an apprentice to a painter before studying in the sculpture gardens of the powerful Medici family. What followed was a remarkable career as an artist in the Italian Renaissance, recognized in his own time for his artistic virtuosity. His works include the "David" and "Pieta" statues and the ceiling paintings of Rome's Sistine Chapel, including the "Last Judgment." Although he always considered himself a Florentine, Michelangelo lived most of his life in Rome, where he died in 1564, at age 88.
Painter, sculptor, architect and poet Michelangelo, one of the most famous artists of the Italian Renaissance, was born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy. Michelangelo's father, Leonardo di Buonarrota Simoni, was briefly serving as a magistrate in the small village when he recorded the birth of his second of five sons with his wife, Francesca Neri, but they returned to Florence when Michelangelo was still an infant. Due to his mother's illness, however, Michelangelo was placed with a family of stonecutters, where he later jested, "With my wet-nurse's milk, I sucked in the hammer and chisels I use for my statues."
Indeed, Michelangelo was less interested in schooling than watching the painters at nearby churches, and drawing what he saw there, according to his earliest biographers (Vasari, Condivi and Varchi). It may have been his grammar school friend, Francesco Granacci, six years his senior, who introduced Michelangelo to painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. Michelangelo's father realized early on that his son had no interest in the family financial business, so agreed to apprentice him, at the age of 13, to the fashionable Florentine painter's workshop. There, Michelangelo was exposed to the technique of fresco.
Michelangelo had spent only a year at the workshop when an extraordinary opportunity opened to him: At the recommendation of Ghirlandaio, he moved into the palace of Florentine ruler Lorenzo the Magnificent, of the powerful Medici family, to study classical sculpture in the Medici gardens. This was a fertile time for Michelangelo; his years with the Medici family, 1489 to 1492, permitted him access to the social elite of Florence—allowing him to study under the respected sculptor Bertoldo di Giovanni and exposing him to prominent poets, scholars and learned Humanists. He also obtained special permission from the Catholic Church to study cadavers for insight into anatomy, though exposure to corpses had an adverse effect on his health.
These combined influences laid the groundwork for what would become Michelangelo's distinctive style: a muscular precision and reality combined with an almost lyrical beauty. Two relief sculptures that survive, "Battle of the Centaurs" and "Madonna Seated on a Step," which are testaments to his unique talent at the unbelievable age of only sixteen.
Christopher ColumbusBorn (birth records are inexact, believed to be prior to) 31 October 1451, on Genoa, Republic of Genoa and died 20 May 1506
Columbus was an extraordinary Italian explorer, navigator, colonizer, and citizen of the Republic of Genoa. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. He was well known at the time as being the most acute dead-reckoning navigator (the ability to navigate using only a compass) of that age. His voyages and his efforts to establish permanent settlements on the island of Hispaniola initiated the European colonization of the New World. Which in pertinent part is a primary reason you are even able to be reading this right now.
His name in Italian is Cristoforo Colombo and, in Spanish, it is Cristóbal Colón. He was born before 31 October 1451 in the territory of the Republic of Genoa (now part of modern Italy), though the exact location remains disputed. His father was Domenico Colombo, a middle-class wool weaver who worked both in Genoa and Savona and who also owned a cheese stand at which young Christopher worked as a helper. His mother was Susanna Fontanarossa. Bartolomeo, Giovanni Pellegrino, and Giacomo were his brothers. Bartolomeo worked in a cartography workshop in Lisbon for at least part of his adulthood. He also had a sister named Bianchinetta.
Columbus never wrote in his native language, which is presumed to have been a Genoese variety of Ligurian (his name would translate in the 16th-century Genoese language as Christoffa Corombo. In one of his writings, he says he went to sea at the age of 10. In 1470, the Columbus family moved to Savona, where Domenico took over a tavern. In the same year, Christopher was on a Genoese ship hired in the service of René of Anjou to support his attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples. Some modern historians have argued that he was not from Genoa but, instead, from the Aragon region of Spainor from Portugal. These competing hypotheses have generally been discounted by mainstream scholars.
Columbus's handwritten notes in Latin, on the margins of his copy of The Travels of Marco Polo
In 1473, Columbus began his apprenticeship as business agent for the important Centurione, Di Negro and Spinola families of Genoa. Later, he allegedly made a trip to Chios, an Aegean island then ruled by Genoa. In May 1476, he took part in an armed convoy sent by Genoa to carry valuable cargo to northern Europe. He docked in Bristol, England and Galway, Ireland. In 1477, he was possibly in Iceland. In the autumn of 1477, he sailed on a Portuguese ship from Galway to Lisbon, where he found his brother Bartolomeo, and they continued trading for the Centurione family. Columbus based himself in Lisbon from 1477 to 1485. He married Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, daughter of the Porto Santo governor and Portuguese nobleman of Lombard origin Bartolomeu Perestrello.
In retrospect, we were inaccurately taught in school that Columbus discovered "America", while he actually landed on an island now known as Hisaniola and became the first "Spanish authorized" governor of that land. More below.
One of the driving reasons for Columbus' voyage to the new world was that Western imperialism and economic competition were emerging among European kingdoms through the establishment of trade routes and colonies. Columbus was actually looking for a western route to Japan and the orient (at the time referred to asa the "East Indies") by sailing westward as the military governments in Constantinole had controlled all of the well known routes to China and the east.
Columbus eventually received the support of the Spanish Crown for this voyage whom at the time was in fierce competition with England to colunize the new world lands.
Spain saw a chance to enter the spice trade with Asia through a new westward route. During his first voyage in 1492, he reached the New World instead of arriving at Japan as he had intended. He landed on an island in the Bahamas archipelago that he named "San Salvador" and known today as Hispaniola. Over the course of three more voyages, he visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America, claiming all of it for the Crown of Castile (Spain).
We now know today that Columbus was not the first European explorer to reach the Americas, having been preceded by the Viking expedition led by Leif Erikson in the 11th century, but his voyages led to the first lasting European contact with the Americas, inaugurating a period of European exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted several centuries.
These voyages had, therefore, an enormous impact in the historical development of the modern Western world. Columbus himself saw his accomplishments primarily in the light of spreading the Christian religion.
Columbus called the inhabitants of the lands that he visited indios (Spanish for "Indians"). His strained relationship with the Spanish crown and the appointed colonial administrators in America, led to his dismissal as governor of the settlements on the island of Hispaniola in 1500 - gotta love politics...
Amerigo VespucciPortrait of Vespucci which titles him "discoverer and conqueror of Brazilian land"
March 9, 1454 – February 22, 1512
Amerigo was an Italian explorer, financier, navigator and cartographer who first demonstrated that Brazil and the West Indies did not represent Asia's eastern outskirts as initially conjectured from Columbus' voyages, but instead constituted an entirely separate landmass hitherto unknown to Old Worlders.
Colloquially referred to as the New World, this second super continent came to be termed "Americas", deriving its name from Americus, the Latin version of Vespucci's first name.
Amerigo Vespucci was born and raised in Florence on the Italian Peninsula. He was the third son of Ser Nastagio (Anastasio) Vespucci, a Florentine notary, and Lisabetta Mini. The father of Ser Nastagio (Anastasio) Vespucci had the name Amerigo Vespucci also.
Amerigo Vespucci was educated by his uncle, Fra Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, a Dominican friar of the monastery of San Marco in Florence. While his elder brothers were sent to the University of Pisa to pursue scholarly careers, Amerigo Vespucci embraced a mercantile life, and was hired as a clerk by the Florentine commercial house of Medici, headed by Lorenzo de' Medici. Vespucci acquired the favor and protection of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici who became the head of the business after the elder Lorenzo's death in 1492. In March 1492, the Medici dispatched the thirty-eight-year-old Vespucci and Donato Niccolini as confidential agents to look into the Medici branch office in Cádiz (Spain), whose managers and dealings were under suspicion. In April 1495, by the intrigues of Bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca, the Crown of Castile broke their monopoly deal with Christopher Columbus and began handing out licenses to other navigators for the West Indies. Just around this time (1495–96), Vespucci was engaged as the executor of Giannotto Berardi, an Italian merchant who had recently died in Seville. Vespucci organized the fulfillment of Berardi's outstanding contract with the Castilian crown to provide twelve vessels for the Indies. After these were delivered, Vespucci continued as a provision contractor for Indies expeditions, and is known to have secured beef supplies for at least one (if not two) of Columbus' voyages.
At the invitation of king Manuel I of Portugal, Vespucci participated as observer in several voyages that explored the east coast of South America between 1499 and 1502. On the first of these voyages he was aboard the ship that discovered that South America extended much further south than previously thought.
The expeditions became widely known in Europe after two accounts attributed to Vespucci were published between 1502 and 1504. In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent America after the feminine Latin version of Vespucci's first name, which is Americus.
In 1508, the position of chief of navigation of Spain (piloto mayor de Indias) was created for Vespucci, with the responsibility of planning navigation for voyages to the Indies.
Vespucci's first encounter with Native Americans in Honduras, 1497 (De Bry's illustration, c.1592)
Two letters attributed to Vespucci were published during his lifetime. Mundus Novus (New World) was a Latin translation of a lost Italian letter sent from Lisbon to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici. It describes a voyage to South America in 1501–1502. Mundus Novus was published in late 1502 or early 1503 and soon reprinted and distributed in numerous European countries. Lettera di Amerigo Vespucci delle isole nuovamente trovate in quattro suoi viaggi (Letter of Amerigo Vespucci concerning the isles newly discovered on his four voyages), known as Lettera al Soderini or just Lettera, was a letter in Italian addressed to Piero Soderini. Printed in 1504 or 1505, it claimed to be an account of four voyages to the Americas made by Vespucci between 1497 and 1504. A Latin translation was published by the German Martin Waldseemüller in 1507 in Cosmographiae Introductio, a book on cosmography and geography, as Quattuor Americi Vespucij navigationes (Four Voyages of Amerigo Vespucci).
On March 22, 1508, King Ferdinand made Vespucci chief navigator of Spain at a huge salary and commissioned him to found a school of navigation, in order to standardize and modernize navigation techniques used by Iberian sea captains then exploring the world. Vespucci even developed a rudimentary, but fairly accurate method of determining longitude (which only more accurate chronometers would later improve upon).
The first known depiction of cannibalism in the New World. Engraving by Johann Froschauer for an edition of Amerigo Vespucci's Mundus Novus, published in Augsburg in 1505
In the 18th century, three unpublished familiar letters from Vespucci to Lorenzo de' Medici were rediscovered. One describes a voyage made in 1499–1500 which corresponds with the second of the "four voyages". Another was written from Cape Verde in 1501 in the early part of the third of the four voyages, before crossing the Atlantic. The third letter was sent from Lisbon after the completion of that voyage.
Some have suggested that Vespucci, in the two letters published in his lifetime, was exaggerating his role and constructed deliberate fabrications. However, many scholars now believe that the two letters were not written by him but were fabrications by others based in part on genuine letters by Vespucci. It was the publication and widespread circulation of the letters that might have led Waldseemüller to name the new continent America on his world map of 1507 in Lorraine. Vespucci used a Latinised form of his name, Americus Vespucius, in his Latin writings, which Waldseemüller used as a base for the new name, taking the feminine form America, according to the prevalent view. The book accompanying the map stated: "I do not see what right any one would have to object to calling this part, after Americus who discovered it and who is a man of intelligence, Amerige, that is, the Land of Americus, or America: since both Europa and Asia got their names from women". It is possible that Vespucci was not aware that Waldseemüller had named the continent after him.
The two disputed letters claim that Vespucci made four voyages to America, while at most two can be verified from other sources. At the moment, there is a dispute between historians on when Vespucci visited the mainland the first time. Some historians like Germán Arciniegas and Gabriel Camargo Pérez think that his first voyage was made in June 1497 with the Spanish Pilot Juan de la Cosa.
Vespucci's real historical importance may well rest more in his letters, whether he wrote them all or not, than in his discoveries. From these letters, the European public learned about the newly discovered continents of the Americas for the first time; its existence became generally known throughout Europe within a few years of the letters' publication.
Raffaello Sanzio da UrbinoSome of Raphael's famous works
Raphael was born in the small but artistically significant central
Italian city of Urbino in the Marche region, where his father Giovanni
Santi was court painter to the Duke. The reputation of the court had
been established by Federico III da Montefeltro, a highly successful
condottiere who had been created Duke of Urbino by the Pope - Urbino
formed part of the Papal States - and who died the year before Raphael
was born. The emphasis of Federico's court was rather more literary than
artistic, but Giovanni Santi was a poet of sorts as well as a painter,
and had written a rhymed chronicle of the life of Federico, and both
wrote the texts and produced the decor for masque-like court
entertainments. His poem to Federico shows him as keen to show awareness
of the most advanced North Italian painters, and Early Netherlandish
artists as well. In the very small court of Urbino he was probably more
integrated into the central circle of the ruling family than most court
Born October 27, 1842
Died July 17, 1928
Giovanni was an Italian statesman and Prime Minister of Italy five times between 1892 and 1921. He is the second-longest serving Prime Minister in Italian history, after Benito Mussolini. He was a prominent leader of the Historical Left and the Liberal Union. Giolitti is widely considered one of the most powerful and important politicians in Italian history and, due to his dominant position in Italian politics, he was accused by critics of beign a parliamentary dictator.
Giolitti was a master in the political art of Trasformismo, the method of making a flexible, centrist coalition of government which isolated the extremes of the left and the right in Italian politics after the unification. Under his influence, the Italian Liberals did not develop as a structured party, they were, instead, a series of informal personal groupings with no formal links to political constituencies. The period between the start of the 20th century and the start of World War I, when he was Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior from 1901 to 1914 with only brief interruptions, is often referred to as the "Giolittian Era".
A left-wing liberal, with strong ethical concerns, Giolitti's periods in office were notable for the passage of a wide range of progressive social reforms which improved the living standards of ordinary Italians, together with the enactment of several policies of government intervention. Besides putting in place several tariffs, subsidies and government projects, Giolitti also nationalized the private telephone and railroad operators. Liberal proponents of free trade criticized the "Giolittian System", although Giolitti himself saw the development of the national economy as essential in the production of wealth.
The primary objective of Giolittian politics was to govern from the center with slight and well controlled fluctuations, now in a conservative direction, then in a progressive one, trying to preserve the institutions and the existing social order. His highly complex legacy continues to stimulate intense debate amongst writers and historians.
Giolitti was born at Mondovì (Piedmont). His father Giovenale Giolitti had been working in the avvocatura dei poveri, an office assisting poor citizens in both civil and criminal cases. He died in 1843, a year after Giovanni was born. The family moved in the home of his mother Enrichetta Plochiù in Turin.
His mother taught him to read and write; his education in the gymnasium San Francesco da Paola of Turin was marked by poor discipline and little commitment to study. He did not like mathematics and the study of Latin and Greek grammar, preferring the history and reading the novels of Walter Scott and Honoré de Balzac. At sixteen he entered the University of Turin and, after three years, he earned a law degree in 1860.
His uncle was a member of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Sardinia and a close friend of Michelangelo Castelli, the secretary of Camillo Benso di Cavour. However Giolitti did not appear particularly interested in the Risorgimento and differently to many of his fellow students, he did not enlist to fight in the Italian Second War of Independence.
Career in the public administration
Subsequently, he pursued a career in public administration in the Ministry of Grace and Justice. That choice prevented him from participating in the decisive battles of the Risorgimento (the unification of Italy), for which his temperament was not suited anyway, but this lack of military experience would be held against him as long as the Risorgimento generation was active in politics.
In 1869 he moved to the Ministry of Finance, becoming a high official and working along with important members of the ruling Right, like Quintino Sella and Marco Minghetti. In the same year he married Rosa Sobrero, the granddaughter of Ascanio Sobrero, a famous chemist, who discovered nitroglycerine.
In 1877 Giolitti was appointed to the Court of Audit and in 1882 to the Council of State.
At the 1882 Italian general election he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of Parliament) for the Historical Left. This election was a great victory for the ruling Left of Agostino Depretis, which won 289 seats out of 508.
As deputy he chiefly acquired prominence by attacks on Agostino Magliani, Treasury Minister in the cabinet of Depretis.
Following Depretis’s death on 29 July 1887 Francesco Crispi, a notable politician and patriot, became the leader of the Left group and was also appointed Prime Minister by King Umberto I.
On 9 March 1889 Giolitti was selected by Crispi as new Minister of Treasury and Finance. But in October 1890, Giolitti resigned from his office due to contrasts with Crispi's colonial policy. In fact few weeks before, the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II had contested the Italian text of the Wuchale Treaty, signed by Crispi, stating that it did not oblige Ethiopia to be an Italian protectorate. Menelik informed the foreign press and the scandal erupted. .
After the fall of the government led by the new Prime Minister Antonio Starabba di Rudinì in May 1892, Giolitti, with the help of a court clique, received from the King the task of forming a new cabinet.
Lido Anthony "Lee" Iacocca born October 15, 1924, is an American automobile executive best known for spearheading the development of Ford Mustang and Pinto cars, while at the Ford Motor Company in the 1960s, and then later for reviving the Chrysler Corporation as its CEO during the 1980s. He served as President and CEO of Chrysler from 1978 and additionally as chairman from 1979, until his retirement at the end of 1992.
Iacocca was a passionate advocate of U.S. business exports during the 1980s. He is the author (or co-author) of several books, including Iacocca: An Autobiography (with William Novak), and Where Have All the Leaders Gone?.
Portfolio named Iacocca the 18th-greatest American CEO of all time.
Iacocca was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Nicola Iacocca and Antonietta Perrotta, Italian immigrants (from San Marco dei Cavoti, Benevento) who had settled in Pennsylvania's steel-production belt. They operated a restaurant, Yocco's Hot Dogs. He was said to have been christened with the unusual name "Lido" because he was conceived during his parents' honeymoon in the Lido district in Venice. However, he refutes this rumor in his autobiography, saying that is romantic but not true; his father went to Lido long before his marriage and was traveling with his future wife's brother.
Iacocca graduated from Allentown High School (now known as William Allen High School) in 1942, and Lehigh University in neighboring Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in industrial engineering. He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and an alumnus of Theta Chi Fraternity.
After graduating from Lehigh, he won the Wallace Memorial Fellowship and went to Princeton University, where he took his electives in politics and plastics. He then began a career at the Ford Motor Company as an engineer.
Iacocca was strongly courted by the Chrysler Corporation, at a time when the company appeared to be on the verge of going out of business and had just sold its loss-making Chrysler Europe division to Peugeot in an effort to generate cash because the company was losing millions already in North America. This was largely due to recalls of its Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare, both of which Iacocca later said should never have been built.[dubious – discuss] Iacocca joined Chrysler and began rebuilding the entire company from the ground up, laying off many workers, and bringing in many former associates from his former company.
Also from Ford, Iacocca brought to Chrysler the "Mini-Max" project, which, in 1983, bore fruit in the highly successful Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Henry Ford II had wanted nothing to do with the Mini-Max, a restyled version of the minivan, which Toyota was selling in huge numbers in Asia and Latin America, and his opinion doomed the project at Ford. Hal Sperlich, the driving force behind the Mini-Max at Ford, had been fired a few months before Iacocca. He had been hired by Chrysler, where the two would make automotive history.
Iacocca arrived shortly after Chrysler's introduction of the subcompact Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon. Bearing a strong resemblance to the Volkswagen Rabbit, the front-wheel drive Omni and Horizon became instant hits, selling over 300,000 units each in their debut year, showing what was to come for Chrysler. The Omni had been designed alongside the Chrysler Horizon with much input from the Chrysler Europe division of the company (evidenced by many examples having VW/Audi engines), which Iacocca axed in 1978.
Realizing that the company would go out of business if it did not receive a large infusion of cash, Iacocca approached the United States Congress in 1979 and successfully requested a loan guarantee. In order to obtain the guarantee, Chrysler was required to reduce costs and abandon some longstanding projects, such as the turbine engine, which had been ready for consumer production in 1979 after nearly 20 years of development.
Chrysler released the first of the K-Car line, the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant, in 1981. Similar to the later minivan, these compact automobiles were based on design proposals that Ford had rejected during Iacocca's (and Sperlich's) tenure. Released in the middle of the major 1980-1982 recession, the small, efficient, and inexpensive front-wheel drive cars sold rapidly. In addition, Iacocca re-introduced the big Imperial as the company's flagship. The new model had all of the newest technologies of the time, including fully electronic fuel injection and all-digital dashboard.
Chrysler introduced the minivan, chiefly Sperlich's "baby", in the fall of 1983. It led the automobile industry in sales for 25 years. Because of the K-cars and minivans, along with the reforms Iacocca implemented, the company turned around quickly and was able to repay the government-backed loans seven years earlier than expected. The Jeep Grand Cherokee design was the driving force behind Chrysler's buyout of AMC; Iacocca desperately wanted it.
Iacocca led Chrysler's acquisition of AMC in 1987, which brought the profitable Jeep division under the corporate umbrella. It created the short-lived Eagle division, formed from the remnants of AMC. By this time, AMC had already finished most of the work on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which Iacocca wanted. The Grand Cherokee would not be released until 1992 for the 1993 model year, the same year that Iacocca retired.
Throughout the 1980s, Iacocca appeared in a series of commercials for the company's vehicles, employing the ad campaign, "The pride is back," to denote the turnaround of the corporation. He also voiced what was to become his trademark phrase: "If you can find a better car, buy it."
Iacocca retired as president, CEO and chairman of Chrysler at the end of 1992.
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