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  • Jeep. It is perhaps one of the strongest brands in

  • the automotive world.

  • It has a military pedigree that dates back to at

  • least World War Two, and for generations, it has

  • sustained its rugged, classic, American image.

  • It is also Fiat Chrysler's top selling brand, and

  • it inspires a rare sort of cult like devotion

  • other automakers would kill for.

  • Jeep specializes in sport utility vehicles.

  • It does not make a single sedan or sports coupe.

  • That has left it extraordinarily well positioned

  • for the recent boom in SUVs.

  • And I think one of the cool things about the Jeep

  • brand is over the years, we've really stayed true

  • to that first and core being of authenticity and

  • what four wheel drive capability means.

  • However, the secret is out and automakers

  • everywhere are ramping up their own SUV and

  • pickup inventories, and some are aiming their

  • products squarely at segments Jeep has long

  • dominated. Jeep is answering with a slew of new

  • innovations and new products to preserve its

  • strong position and envied reputation.

  • Industry insiders say Jeep can no longer expect

  • that its legendary name and distinctive styling

  • will keep buyers coming back.

  • Jeep traces its modern history back to 1940, and

  • its story starts with war.

  • Preparing for its involvement in World War Two,

  • the United States government sent requests to 135

  • automakers for a quarter ton light reconnaissance

  • vehicle. Three responded Ford, a company called

  • Bantam, and a third company by the name of

  • Willys-Overland. Willys-Overland made about

  • 360,000 jeeps for the U.S.

  • Army throughout the war.

  • As World War Two ended, Willys debuted the first

  • civilian Jeep, or CJ, for the public in 1945.

  • Before the war was over, the government and really

  • the public recognized what a wonderful vehicle

  • this was. So even before the war was over early

  • in the war, actually the engineers

  • Willy-Overland began designing a civilian

  • version. Willys-Overland was allowed to begin

  • manufacture before the war is even over.

  • July 17th, 45 the first civilian Jeep rolled off

  • the line. It released the Willys wagon in 1946,

  • the Willys-Overland truck in 1947, and briefly

  • even a convertible sedan called the Jeepster,

  • which ran from 1948 to 1951.

  • Over the years, the Jeep brand name grew.

  • At different points in its history, Jeep has made

  • pickup trucks, wagons, military and civilian

  • jeeps, and an array of commercial vehicles, some

  • that broke new ground in engineering and design.

  • For example, in the 1940s, Jeep released the

  • first all steel station wagon, which resisted

  • rain and weathering much better than the wood

  • paneled wagons common at the time.

  • In the 1960s, the Jeep catalog dramatically

  • expanded to fourteen models from just six in the

  • 1950s. The Wagoneer, introduced in the 1960s,

  • brought the first overhead cam six cylinder truck

  • engine and was the first four by four vehicle to

  • have automatic transmission and an independent

  • front suspension. This was the first time that a

  • station wagon body with four wheel drive and

  • automatic transmission.

  • Nobody had put an automatic transmission through

  • a four wheel drive system before, which really

  • expanded the market. So it really stepped up the

  • SUV game, really was a game changer.

  • In the 1970s, Jeep introduced the first automatic

  • full time four wheel drive system, considered

  • revolutionary at the time.

  • In the following decade, the 1980s, the company

  • came out with another vehicle that would proved

  • revolutionary, the Jeep Cherokee XJ, one of the

  • best selling SUVs of all time, and a big step

  • toward the compact crossovers so frequently seen

  • since in the 2000s, Jeep released the Wrangler

  • Rubicon then and now, the most capable Jeep

  • Wrangler trim level.

  • In that era, the company also came out with a four

  • door version of the Wrangler, which dramatically

  • boosted sales.

  • Over the years, ownership of the Jeep brand has

  • changed hands several times.

  • It was initially owned by Willys-Overland, then

  • bought by Kaiser in the 1960s.

  • Kaiser later sold Jeep to American Motor

  • Corporation and left auto making entirely.

  • AMC was then itself sold to French carmaker

  • Renault before Chrysler bought AMC in 1987.

  • Of course, Jeep was then caught up in the

  • troubles Chrysler faced throughout its history,

  • including an ill fated acquisition by the German

  • automaker Daimler, known for the Mercedes Benz

  • brand. Daimler sold Chrysler to private equity

  • firm, Cerberus Capital Management, and then

  • Chrysler went bankrupt in 2009.

  • It was briefly owned by the US government and

  • then sold to Italian carmaker Fiat, forming the

  • Fiat Chrysler Group of brands.

  • Despite this tumultuous history, Jeep has been

  • able to maintain a surprisingly consistent fan

  • and customer base, part of the reason for this,

  • say many auto industry insiders, is its appeal to

  • heritage. The brand has a long and illustrious

  • history, and models made today bear a fair amount

  • of resemblance to the earliest Willys Jeeps sold

  • to the U.S. Army.

  • I would describe Jeep as a very, very heritage

  • built brand. In fact, it may be one of the most

  • heritage build brands in the marketplace today.

  • The best example of this, of course, is the

  • Wrangler, that imposing rugged rock climber,

  • beloved by hardcore off roaders and people who

  • want other people to think they're hard core off

  • roaders. Though it has changed over time, the

  • Wrangler's DNA goes all the way back to the

  • original Willys Jeeps sold during the World War

  • Two era. The civilian jeeps, or CJ models that

  • were built as the war ended in 1945 lasted until

  • 1986, a 41 year history.

  • They were incredibly popular.

  • The CJ-5 alone had a 30 year production history,

  • the longest of any single production vehicle at

  • the time it was discontinued.

  • The actual Wrangler name debuted in 1986 in time

  • for the 1987 model year.

  • It is hard to emphasize just how strong the

  • Wrangler's reputation is among off roading

  • vehicles. The Wrangler is absolutely by far and

  • away the halo vehicle of the Jeep brand.

  • It's really the sole and center of the Jeep

  • brand. It's also one of Jeep's hottest sellers in

  • numerical terms. But the Jeep brand really

  • wouldn't be what it is without the Wrangler.

  • In fact, I would argue that the Jeep brand

  • couldn't exist in its current state without

  • Wrangler. Jeep sold about 228,000 wranglers in

  • 2019 and 240,000 the year before.

  • Apart from the Wrangler, Jeep's other two most

  • popular models in the US are also pivotal

  • products, in both Jeep's history and the history

  • of the automotive industry.

  • They are the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.

  • The Cherokee began life in the 1970s as a two

  • door version of the Wagoneer built on the

  • Wagoneer's large platform called the SJ platform

  • in the company's nomenclature.

  • In 1984, Jeep transferred the Cherokee and

  • Wagoneer names to a smaller platform that went by

  • the label XJ.

  • This was in part a response to anxieties over gas

  • prices spurred by the oil crises of the 1970s.

  • It was a pioneering move.

  • And I think what Jeep had originally kind of paved

  • the way for some of these other brands to create

  • more comfortable, more car like, nicer ride SUVs,

  • because they knew that people like that body

  • style that like outdoorsy, utilitarian, a lot of

  • cargo space, usable space type of vehicle.

  • The XJ platform made the Cherokee the first SUV

  • with unibody construction, meaning it was built

  • using a construction method where the body of the

  • car and the chassis are fused together.

  • Unibody construction has long been thought to

  • offer many advantages for certain types of cars.

  • It can make them lighter, easier to handle, and

  • drive at high speeds, for example.

  • It hit the sport utility vehicle and pickup truck

  • segments later due to the common preference for

  • traditional body on frame construction in

  • vehicles that haul or drive off road.

  • Just like the way the early Willys Jeeps provided

  • a template for the classic American jeep form

  • that became the Wrangler, the Cherokee was

  • critical in helping to define the template for

  • the modern sport utility vehicle and crossover

  • that have become ubiquitous in America.

  • The Cherokee was really one of the big models that

  • inspired this huge rush to SUVs that eventually

  • came into full force in the 90s.

  • It would have happened without that original 1984

  • Cherokee that really planted the seed.

  • The Grand Cherokee, released in 1993, was a

  • pioneering premium crossover SUV.

  • It looked modern, it felt it modern, it was

  • modern, all the way through it. They really

  • changed people's perception of an SUV, that it

  • could be your daily driver.

  • These key products and others have turned Jeep

  • into one of the most adored and envied brands in

  • the automotive world.

  • Jeeps represent today vehicles that are, for the

  • most part, very, very practical and functional

  • for everyday life. But they have this mystique

  • about the brand that makes people coming back for

  • more. Much of what fuels this admiration is a

  • strong base of customers and fans.

  • Jeep owners have their own clubs and schedule

  • events dedicated to driving.

  • For example, weekend long Jeep Jamboree off road

  • trips have been happening since 1953, when a Jeep

  • owner first organized a drive across the Rubicon

  • Trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

  • Jeep has also listened to its customers over the

  • decades and used feedback to refine the Jeep

  • Wrangler's designs.

  • The Wrangler changes little from year to year,

  • but Jeep does make incremental improvements based

  • on customer input.

  • It's really the customers that run the brand.

  • And we listen to them and and try to respond to

  • them with what they're looking for with respect

  • to product. So a couple of recent examples of us

  • doing that are the diesel engine in the in the

  • Wrangler, they asked for that very common

  • request. Gladiator was a great example of that as

  • well, bringing a pickup truck back to the Jeep

  • line up. The Jeep Wrangler's gradually shifting

  • looks give it a continuity with its past.

  • It also makes it easy to source parts for

  • repairs. And Wranglers are known for their

  • excellent aftermarket support.

  • Jeep also has a strong reputation outside the

  • United States, even in countries where American

  • cars are not that popular.

  • For example, U.S. automakers control a minuscule

  • portion of the auto market in Japan, where buyers

  • favor smaller vehicles with features more

  • tailored to local tastes.

  • However, of the American brands in Japan, Jeep

  • stands out. Japanese buyers bought 13,354 Jeeps

  • in 2019.

  • The second most popular American brand,

  • Chevrolet, sold only 585 units the same year.

  • Jeep sales were actually up 16% in Japan in 2019,

  • despite the fact that car sales overall were down

  • 1.5% and import sales rose only 3.2% percent.

  • Interestingly enough, for a country that loves

  • small cars, the boxy Wrangler is Japan's most

  • popular Jeep model.

  • Jeep is also making some inroads elsewhere in the

  • world. It is, for example, becoming a serious

  • threat to Land Rover in Europe, surpassing the

  • legendary British brand on that continent in

  • 2018.

  • The strong brand recognition has helped make Jeep

  • Fiat Chrysler's best selling brand by a pretty

  • wide margin. FCA sold 923,291 Jeeps in 2019.

  • The next best selling FCA brand is RAM Trucks,

  • which sold 703,023.

  • No other FCA brand comes close in terms of sales.