Jeep is one of the three divisions that make up Chrysler along with Dodge and the Chrysler brand itself. Jeep produces a range of sport utility vehicles and crossovers. Jeep sport utility vehicles have traditionally been known for their off-road prowess and most are Trail Rated by Jeep. The Trail Rated badge indicates the Jeep has passed traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation, and water fording tests. Jeep is often credited with being one of the first to make a mass-market sport utility vehicle with its early four-wheel-drive wagons.
The used Jeep lineup includes the Jeep Commander full-size SUV, the Jeep Grand Cherokee mid-size SUV, the Jeep Patriot mid-size sport utility vehicle, the Jeep Compass crossover vehicle, the Jeep Wrangler small sport utility vehicle and the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.
The modern Jeep was born from the US Army's need for a 1/4-ton, 4x4 light reconnaissance vehicle to serve during the ramp up to World War II. After several rounds of refinement to meet military requirements, American Bantam, Willys-Overland, and Ford collectively produced the vehicles that would earn the name Jeep. Bantam would produce the first prototypes in 1940 and go on to deliver a handful of vehicles to the military. Only one known example of the first Bantam vehicles exists to this day. The Ford entrant established the general layout for Jeeps to come, but in the end it was the more-powerful Willys Quad design that would ultimately win out. Between the three automakers, a final Jeep design was established and the military began ordering production runs from each automaker. There were numerous variations and upgrades during the early years of Jeep production by all three automakers. After World War II, only Willys would continue to produce the Jeep. Bantam ended production shortly after launching its program in 1941, and Ford ceased production in 1945.
When the war came to an end, Willys would continue building Jeeps for the commercial, military, civilian, and agriculture markets. Willys would use the notoriety it garnered from the success of the Jeep in World War II to expand into 1/2-ton and 1-ton offerings that utilized aspects of the now-famous Jeep design. In 1953, the Willys-Overland company was purchased by Henry J. Kaiser. The Jeep had such a significant influence on the success of Kaiser that the company was renamed the Kaiser-Jeep Corporation in 1963. However, shortly after renaming the company Jeep production stagnated at an average of 30,000 to 35,000 units per year.
Acquisition by AMC and Chrysler
As a result, Kaiser-Jeep was absorbed into American Motors Corporation (AMC) in 1970. AMC would transform the Jeep from a utilitarian work vehicle to a truck with more mass-market appeal. Even after a valiant effort, the Jeep could not save AMC. The early 1980's would prove to be the undoing of the company. AMC had registered its 14th consecutive quarter loss in 1983 and after a failed alliance with Renault and experiments with forming joint ventures with Chinese automakers, AMC along with it the Jeep brand was sold to the Chrysler Corporation. Through aggressive marketing and product modernization, Chrysler has restored much of the Jeep's former glory by making the vehicle more comfortable and upmarket while still retaining the rugged heritage.