Auto brand Jeep is known as the oldest SUV and off-road vehicle brand in the world. Jeep is a Chrysler brand (based in the U.S), and therefore, is under the watchful eye of automaker Fiat. The first Jeep as we know it today was built in seven weeks by hand- and out of necessity due to the fact that the America military needed a fresh vehicle that was more functional than a car or motorcycle; they needed it to perform in any situation: off-road or on-road. The military invited over a hundred automobile companies to compete to build this new vehicle, which was required to meet certain power standards, but only three companies accepted: Willy-Overland, Bantam, and Ford.
Bantam was overthrown in the competition by Willy-Overland's 60 horsepower engine, but Ford's help with also enlisted, since Willy was a small company and couldn't keep up with production by itself. The Willy-Overland company named its vehicles the MA and MB, and Ford named its vehicles the GP and GPW, in 1941. Throughout World War II, Ford and Willys produced over 700,000 vehicles, with Willys contributing over 330,000 of these units. We do have to give Bantam credit, however; these vehicles were basically Bantam knockoffs, with several tweaks. The vehicles were so successful in the war that they became popular on the home front. By 1945, civilian models were being made and competition from the Land Rover brand, the second oldest brand featuring four-wheel-drive, came out to play.
The origin of the "Jeep" name still inspires confusion today. Some fans believe it came from Ford's "GP," standing for "general purpose," but this theory has been predominantly debunked. Other stories say it came from the original Bantam designation, or that it originated from the soldiers' nick-name for the vehicle, which came from a character in the popular American Popeye cartoons of the time. Eugene the Jeep was Popeye's jungle pet with the ability to move around easily and stealthily in any situation. Either way, and despite the confusion, Willy-Overland was awarded rights to the Jeep name in 1950, as it was the only company producing the vehicles after the war. Several specially-modified Jeeps were also used in the second War, including a Jeep that could travel underwater, the CJ-V35/U.
Some of the most popular Jeeps to ever make landfall are the Jeep Wrangler TJ (produced in '97 and representing a turning-point for the brand aesthetically, the Jeep Rubicon (produced in 2003 and known for its amazing off-roading capabilities), the Jeep Cherokee (produced 1984-today) the and the CJ models. The CJ-5 was introduced in 1954 and was the civilian version of the M-38A1 from two years earlier. This model stayed in production for nearly a whopping three decades, longer than any Jeep model. It was finally replaced by the CJ-7, another best-selling Jeep model with a ten year lifespan that began in 1976. There was also a pickup version of this Jeep produced. In 1987, the CJ-7 was replaced by the Jeep Wrangler, but known as t YJ at that point in time. The Jeep Wrangler is still popular today, after its redesign in 1997. Other popular models today include the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Jeep Liberty, the Jeep Patriot, and the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (first introduced in 2004). Jeep continues to compete against Land Rover, as well as other brands' SUV variants such as Honda, Ford, and Toyota.