The iconic, made-in-the-USA Jeep is a sport utility vehicle with an all-terrain prowess and a loyal fan base in the United States and throughout the rest of the world. To help explain the success of this sturdy SUV, Huffines CJDR Lewisville is providing you with our take on this American classic’s popularity.
History of a Legend
The Jeep’s earliest predecessor, the Willys Quad, was first built in Pennsylvania for the U.S. military in 1940. The American armed forces were seeking an efficient vehicle to replace the horse and the motorcycle as a form of transportation. Automakers such as American Bantam, Ford, and Willys-Overland all had a stab at manufacturing rights for the SUV, with Willys-Overland eventually getting the nod.
Eventually, 16,000 units were manufactured in the U.S. in 1941 during WWII, and many of these were sent to the Allied Forces, such as England and the Soviet Union. This lightweight, four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle quickly gained popularity with the armed forces, but Willys did not introduce it to the general public until 1945. Willys changed their military Jeep — the MB — and introduced the CJ-2A, with CJ standing for “Civilian Jeep.” The introduction of the Jeep Wrangler in 1986 would effectively replace the CJ-2A. The brand went through various acquisitions by manufacturers such as Kaiser and the American Motors Company, but the Jeep brand was able to survive.
The fourth-generation 2020 Jeep Wrangler was expected to sell over a quarter of a million units in 2020, however sales decreased by about 12% last year, with numbers dropping from 228,042 in 2019 to 201,311 in 2020. Despite this anomaly, one could argue that the Jeep Wrangler is its own category in the auto industry altogether.
Once labeled as “America’s only real sports car” by the late Enzo Ferrari, the Jeep’s nearly 75-year history is characterized by evolution alongside the modern eras, but without deviating too much from its roots.
One aspect that has helped the Jeep brand to stay afloat in the car market and retain popularity is careful transformation. After WWII, Jeep decided to revamp its Willys Quad model, thus creating the well-known Wrangler. The new model featured a more refined body than its predecessor, but was still just as capable of off-roading. Features like removable doors and top remained, and the windshield could still be folded down. Jeep purists, however, were not too fond of the SUV’s style of square headlights, which would be replaced down the road with round ones. Today, the Wrangler has a large bumper and very high ground clearance, among other features.
The Jeep has been also been able to survive in the auto market throughout the decades thanks in part to its branding strategy and successful marketing campaigns. By understanding the American psychology, Jeep has been able to tailor its vehicles to the wants and needs of the American buyer, who may care about their social image in the eyes of others. As a result, Jeep has promoted in its marketing strategies an off-road, carefree lifestyle filled with thrills and adventure. By associating the Jeep brand with such positive qualities, the automaker has been able to see success in terms of sales with many of its models, including the Wrangler.
One example of the brand’s victories is the Jeep Gladiator. Sharing a majority of the Jeep Wrangler’s design, this pickup truck has an addition of a bed added to the back. This Jeep model is able to cater to the outdoorsy person who wishes to look hip and adventurous.
Now, let us take an in-depth look as to what exactly makes the Jeep Wrangler such a popular choice.
First of all, the Jeep has off-road capabilities like no other vehicle. It can handle just about any surface or terrain, thanks to its four-wheel-drive, high clearance, and strong exterior. This is due in part to its short wheelbase and excellent ground clearance.
Second, the Jeep has retained its traditional look throughout the decades: huge bumpers, a classic seven-slot grille that is exclusive to Jeep, flat hood and fenders, and gigantic tires, as well as a rear-mounted spare tire in the back.
Thirdly, and as already mentioned earlier in the article, the connection to a military past gives the Jeep its allure, since its predecessor was used in World War II for reconnaissance and also helped to transport cargo and personnel.
A final reason explaining the Jeep’s popularity is the potential to customize the vehicle to one’s needs. There is a high demand for aftermarket parts in order to modify the Jeep, with the manufacturer still making parts for models that are 40 years old. Owners can upgrade their Jeep with options such as lifting the vehicle and upgrading the tires and differential, as well as adding a custom grille. Jeep owners can also choose between a hard-top and a soft-top roof. One is also able to get half-metal, removable or full-framed metal doors. The Jeep can also be customized with different rock rails, winches, bumpers, and differential guards, etc.
Having the ability to modify your Jeep gives you many possibilities to play with. As a result, the Jeep Wrangler will always find a new buyer, with people more than happy to own uniquely modified models or to be able to purchase something with good resale value.
All in all, it could be said that the Jeep’s popularity can be explained by its all-terrain, all-weather, and all-season capabilities, making it quite a versatile vehicle. It is also a symbol of freedom, ruggedness, and adventure, all descriptors of the American spirit.
So, there you have it. We hope that you have enjoyed Huffines CJDR Lewisville’s take on the Jeep’s popularity. Did you find our reasons satisfactory? Did we miss any pertinent information? If we did, let us know! Drop us a line; we’ll be sure to add it to our list.
Image via Flickr by by Rutger van der Maar