Sunday 6th January 1980
Jimmy Carter signed a bill authorising $1.2 billion in federal loans to save the failing Chrysler Corporation. At the time it was the largest federal bailout in history. The “Big Three” American car makers (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) had suffered through the 1970s, as Japanese competitors led by Honda and Toyota outperformed them in quality and price. Chrysler, which lacked the vast cash reserves of GM and Ford, was brought to the brink of bankruptcy by 1980. The federal bailout, which required Chrysler to find billions in private financing in order to receive the federal money, brought Chrysler back from the brink. Lee Iacocca, the charismatic executive largely responsible for Ford’s successful Mustang, joined Chrysler in late 1979, and engineered the company’s return to profitability during the 1980s.