No other car brand in general usage stands as clearly for an entire vehicle category as the "Jeep" brand. Created by chance and without any influence from marketing gurus, almost all cross-country or SUVs are proudly called "Jeep", especially by their owners' partners.
While the male experts then deliberately correct that you don't drive a Jeep, but a Land Rover, a VW Touareg or any other SUV brand, the cerebellum of normal (of course not only female) consumers always has the word, no the term "Jeep" saved as a synonym for any off-road SUV.
Anyone who protests that a “Land Rover” is at the top of the ancestral gallery of the mountain and valley fetishists has to be corrected. The original jeep played an important role in gaining ground on Europe's roads as early as 1945 during the Second World War. The Land Rover did not roll off the assembly line until 1948. And nobody says he drives a Land Rover if he owns an off-road vehicle.
The history of the “Jeep” brand is not only long, but also complicated and in large parts it may have to be rewritten if old diaries appear somewhere that tell them differently than the PR experts at Fiat Chrysler, who now think the brand very well has grown to my heart. According to their reading, the US Army received the prototype of a small two-seater vehicle from the American Austin Company in 1933 for testing purposes. The military were enthusiastic, but there was no military need yet. That changed quickly. Maj. Gen. George A. Lynch formulated the specifications for a vehicle "that should be small and light enough to be lifted by four men onto a 1,5 ton truck or over obstacles". Another infantry general added: "The silhouette should be as low as possible - and if the soldiers have to lie down while driving and the ground clearance has to be sacrificed"; and speed was not an issue: 10 mph was enough, the general said.
In 1938, the Army wrote to 135 vehicle manufacturers who were to come up with ideas for a small off-roader under the pressure of 49 days. The requirements of the tender were tough: The vehicle should weigh a maximum of 590 kilograms, have a foldable windscreen, have an angle of repose of at least 40 degrees, have rear-wheel drive with switchable four-wheel drive, to mention only a few of the criteria. Only two companies were able to deliver what they wanted.
The small vehicle company American Bantam Car Manufacturing Company and Willys-Overland. Small and flexible, only American Bantam managed to present the construction plans and the first prototypes within the set period of 49 days, as well as 26 completed models for testing within a further 70 days. The German-born Karl Probst, whom American Bantam had hired for this project, actually built the prototype in just 49 days - and with this masterpiece, without knowing it, became the forefather of the most popular off-road vehicles in the world. Even today, a memorial in Butler, Pennsylvania - the headquarters of American Bantam - commemorates the birth of the jeep.
To tell the further very complicated development in detail would go beyond the scope of this report. Willys-Overland was awarded the contract in 1941 and Ford was allowed to produce the off-road vehicle.
How the brand name Jeep came into being cannot be reliably determined in the archives either. One theory says that Jeep was simply created from the casual pronunciation of the abbreviation "GP", the military name for "General Purpose Vehicle". Another derives the brand name from the military contract "Government contract P", in which the constant changes were only filed under GP, which could have become "Jeep" acoustically. However, this does not mean that the name is still under wraps. Possibly Jeep was the vernacular term for an all-rounder. Be that as it may: When the photo was shown in the Washington Daily News on February 19, 1941, showing how the little four-wheel drive vehicle climbed the steps of the Capitol, it was also possible to read what it was called: "It's a Jeep".
The basic model with 60 hp has now become an extensive model family. Today the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Renegade and the Wrangler are among the brand's outstanding models. As the spokesman for the brand in Germany, Markus Hauf, promises, Jeep plays an important role in the Fiat Group. It is the only Chrysler Group brand to remain active worldwide. It still stands for freedom like no other brand that the first jeep brought to Europe in 1945.