Willys went on to create an entire lineup of Jeep vehicles, marking the beginning of Jeep’s transition into a standalone brand. There was the Jeep station wagon in 1946, a Jeep pickup truck in 1947, and the Wagoneer, with had a station wagon-like body and was one of the earliest forerunners of the modern family SUV.
And who could forget the Jeepster in 1948? According to the company, it was the “last phaeton-style open-bodied vehicle made by a U.S. automaker, using side curtains for weather protection instead of roll-down windows.” It priced out at $1,900, which was extremely expensive at the time, and was marketed as a vehicle suitable for women drivers and college grads.
The years to come would see the vehicle evolve into the Jeep that you know today, with the 1980s introducing two significant Jeep models — the XJ-generation Cherokee in 1984 that was Jeep’s first truly modern SUV, and the YJ, the first-generation Wrangler. And all this was done while the company changed hands multiple times.
In 1953, Willys was bought by Kaiser for $60.8 million, which was then bought by AMC in 1969, which would then be bought by Chrysler in 1987. That turned out to be good deal for Chrysler, as the 1990s saw an explosion of interest in SUVs and Jeep was ready to fill the need with the Grand Cherokee in 1992.
The All-New 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee (ZJ) came next, and then Wrangler (TJ) with its new coil suspension was introduced in 1997. In 1999 the new Grand Cherokee (WJ) was marketed as “the most capable SUV ever,” and sales soared to 629,000 units for the decade.
However, Chrysler merged with Daimler AG in 1998, and eventually Chrysler entered bankruptcy. But instead of fully going under, it was bought by Fiat to form what is now known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles — FCA. There’s no telling what the future will bring, but you can plan that Jeep will keep driving on.
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