The Jeep name was first used in 1941 when both Willys-Overland and the Ford Motor Company issued general purpose or GP vehicles based on a U.S. Army approved design submitted by the Bantam Car Company. After the war, GP became Jeep as Willys bought the trademark for this iconic 4×4 brand.
Following World War II, America’s car manufacturers resumed production and put forth new designs that would define these brands well into the 1950s. Willys-Overland quickly transformed its Jeep vehicle into a number of body styles, including the Willys Wagon, a pickup truck, the CJ-3 Jeep and even a low-priced sports car, the Jeepster.
Throughout the 1950s, Willys built both civilian and military variants of its CJ-5, a model that stayed in production for three decades. During that decade the company was sold to Kaiser and commercial models, including the FC-150 cab-over-engine truck, appeared.
During the 1960s, Kaiser-Jeep introduced several new models, including some that would define the brand for the next several decades. The Jeep Wagoneer was the forerunner of today’s modern SUVs, a model that also introduced the brand’s renowned Quad-Trac four-wheel drive system in the 1970s. That decade also saw two new pickups join the Jeep line — the smaller Gladiator and the large J-2000/3000 series.
By the mid-1970s, the Jeep brand was composed of pickup trucks and SUVs, including the first generation Jeep Cherokee, as well as the CJ-7, which is the predecessor to the Jeep Wrangler. Kaiser-Jeep became the American Motors Company in 1970. During the 1980s, the Jeep Comanche truck was introduced, one of the last models produced under AMC before the Chrysler Corporation purchased the brand in 1987.
The 1990s brought forth two new models that expanded the brand just as the company stopped production of its pickup truck lines. The Jeep Grand Cherokee was slotted above the Cherokee and was joined by the Wrangler, the latter based on the vintage Jeep design.
In the new century, the Jeep line was further expanded by its new owner, DaimlerChrysler, as models such as the compact Jeep Liberty SUV, the large Commander SUV and two entry-level models, the Compass and Patriot, were added. Every modern Jeep, except for the Wrangler, employed unibody construction without losing its off-road prowess. An extended wheelbase four-door Wrangler was introduced in 2007.
Under its current Fiat Chrysler ownership, the Jeep brand is now composed of a range of SUVs, including the Jeep Renegade, the first Jeep built overseas. The subcompact Renegade along with the Fiat 500X, are both manufactured in Italy.
Jeep products can be compared with any manufacturer of SUVs. Land Rover is a traditional rival. Chevrolet, Subaru, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Dodge, Honda, Mazda, Volkswagen, Kia, Mitsubishi and Hyundai also field models that can be compared to certain Jeep vehicles.