The threat of WWII coming to the U.S. led the Army to commission a vehicle that was designed specifically for Army purposes. Their request was for a 1/4 ton “light reconnaissance vehicle” that would meet exact Army specifications. Bantam, Willys and Ford all sought to meet the challenge and their collective results created a vehicle that is known today at the first Jeep. In November 1940, Willys Overland officially delivered the new “Quad” prototype, one of the only two ever to be produced, after completing it in only 75 days.
WWII drives the development Jeep
Throughout the 1940s, the evolution of the vehicle that would eventually come to be dubbed as Jeep continued. First there was the release of the Willys MA in 1941 which was modified further to meet Army specifications and used by the US Allies in England and Russia. This model was then followed by the Willys MB which became the stuff of legends due to its invaluable use by the U.S. Army throughout the rest of WWII. The Willys MB became the best friend of every GI serving at the time and one Willys MB was even sent home and awarded a purple heart.
Jeep introduced civilian vehicles
Once the war was over, Willys looked for peacetime uses for this model in order to continue the popularity that it had garnered which led to the birth of the 1945 Jeep CJ-2A. Next came the 463 Jeep Station Wagon in July 1946. This model was the first-ever all-steel wagon to be sold in America. It quickly gained notice due to its exterior design that was built to withstand weathering and its fold-down tailgate hatch. The second half of the ‘40s saw the emergence of even more Jeep firsts as the company continued to expand its portfolio to include more commercial-style vehicles including the new Jeep Trucks, the Jeepster, and the CJ-3A.
Jeep brand declared a cultural icon
As Jeep entered the 1950s, they sought to continue the trend of recreational vehicles in the styles of the models that they were now producing. Throughout this decade, the brand released several new vehicles including the 1950 Jeep M38, 1952 Jeep M-38A1, 1953 Jeep M-170 and Jeep CJ-3B, 1955 Jeep CJ-5 and Jeep CJ-6, 1957 Jeep FC-150 and Jeep FC-170 in, and finally the 1957 Jeep DJ-3A. The Jeep brand was declared a cultural icon by the Museum of Modern Art in 1951 naming it one of the world’s eight automotive masterpieces. In 1953, the legendary Jeep Jamboree was born when pioneer Mark A. Smith gathered fellow Jeep enthusiasts together to organise the first-ever trek through the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the old Rubicon Trail. This annual tradition is one that still continues today, bringing Jeep enthusiasts from all over the world to take part.
More growth and more expansion
With the 1960s came even more growth and expansion as the brand sought to create models that would be ideal work as well as recreation and even a bit of luxury. This led to the development of some unique and innovative models during that time including the 1961 FLEETVAN, 1963 Jeep® Wagoner and Jeep® Gladiator/J-Series Truck, 1964 CJ-5A/CJ-6A Tuxedo Park, 1965 J-2000 & J-3000 Series Pickup, 1966 Jeep® Super Wagoneer, 1967 M-715, Jeepster Commando Station Wagon and Jeepster Commando Convertible, Jeepster Commando Pickup, and Jeepster Commando Roadster, and the Gladiator/J-4000 Series Pickup in 1969.
World leader in the 4×4 market
The 1970s continues Jeep’s role as a leader in the world of 4×4 vehicles as it introduced its first-ever full-time 4×4 system. The emergence of several new models including the award-winning two-door full-size Jeep Cherokee helped to bring sales of the brand to the highest they had ever been. The models that were released throughout this decade included the Dispatcher Jeep in 1970, the Jeep CJ-5 Renegade in 1972, the Jeep Cherokee and Cherokee Chief in 1975, the Jeep J-10 HONCHO in 1976, and the redesigned Jeep CJ-7 which offered the first major redesign of the original Jeep in nearly two decades. Throughout the 1970s, Jeep also offered a Golden Eagle option package.
Continued market dominance
As the 1980s emerged, the Jeep brand’s role in the world of 4×4 vehicles continued to develop even more. It revolutionised the market with even more industry firsts such as the first 4×4 system with shift-on-the-fly capability, the first compact 4×4 SYV, and the first UniFrame construction. Vehicles that debuted during the decade included the 1980 Jeep CJ-5 Laredo, 1982 Jeep CJ-7 Laredo, 1981 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler, 1984 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, Wagoner Limited, and Cherokee XJ, 1986 Jeep Comanche, and 1987 Jeep Wrangler.
Cherokee: the most capable SUV ever
The 1990s brought redesigned and enhanced versions of the popular Jeep Grand Cherokee, Grand Wagoneer and Wrangler. The newest version of the Grand Cherokee garnered a significant amount of attention all across the automotive industry for its ability to translate to both on- and off-road capabilities. The 1999 version even earned the title of the most capable SUV ever in all of the brand’s marketing campaigns that year. That combined with the new coil suspension in the 1997 Wrangler helped the brand to achieve sales of 629,000 units throughout the entire decade.
New Jeep and refreshed classic Jeeps
Since the turn of the century, Jeep has continued to evolve with the times and maintain a high level of standard and quality of its vehicles. The brand launched the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon in 2003 and the four-door Wrangler Unlimited in 2007. The brand’s first small cross-utility segment models, the Compass and Patriot also made their debut in 2007 and the Jeep Liberty emerged in 2008. The Grand Cherokee has undergone a couple of refreshments, one in 2011 and one in 2013, adding new style elements and the more efficient 3.0L EcoDiesel engine. When the newest version of the Cherokee made its debut in 2014, it was designed to replace the Liberty and help to redefine the midsize segment for the brand. Finally, Jeep officially entered the small SUV market with the release of the all-new Jeep Renegade in 2015.
Today’s steward of FCA has started producing Jeep cars from India as well. Jeep Compass made in India has recorded more than 20 thousand deliveries in less than one year. About half of this number has been exported to Australia, England and others. The move to set up an export hub in India and that too for Jeep models (some such as Renegade are expected in 2018) signals FCA’s renewed interest in the Indian market.