■ By Richard Perry / Contributed
Greetings from the Hemet Car Guy,
Both Memorial and Independence Day have passed and these patriotic holidays got me thinking about Jeep Wranglers – why you may ask? Because “Jeeps” were a big part of World War II.
After WWII, government-surplus MB vehicles were widely available in the U.S. and returning veterans nabbed them as cheap, reliable transportation. Capitalizing on the opportunity, the Willys-Overland company produced the 1945-1949 Jeep CJ-2A, a version of the MB modified for civilian use.
The Jeep Wrangler is the direct descendant of the 1940 Willys Quad prototype vehicle that was commissioned by the United States Army. The rugged, capable, and affordable MB was everywhere during World War II. At some point, the MB took on the nickname “Jeep.” Many people have speculated how the Jeep got its name, but no theory is accepted by all. I like to believe that it’s army slang for “GP” or “General Purpose” but some experts trace the name back to a comic strip character named Eugene the Jeep.
American Motors Company (AMC) took over production of the Jeep in 1970 and in 1987 released the Jeep Wrangler (code name “YJ”). The next generation of Wrangler, the “TJ,” ran from 1997-2006 through various changes of the Jeep brand’s ownership. The current Wrangler (code name “JK”) debuted as a 2007 model and continues through the present under the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) regime.
Few vehicles have such a heritage. Even people that don’t know much about cars can recognize the unique character of the Jeep Wrangler. They don’t look like other SUVs. Maybe that’s why they are so popular. In 2016, Jeep sold about 1.4 million SUVs and is growing with about two million Jeeps in its sights. It may take until 2020 or so to sell two million Jeeps per year, but it looks like it will happen.
The Jeep Wrangler had its best sales year ever in 2015 with 200,000 units. Sales have almost doubled since 2007, when the current generation Wrangler (code name “JK”) made its debut. One might wonder why sales have shot up because even though the Wrangler has had some incremental upgrades, it’s still a fundamentally simple vehicle when compared to other SUVs on the market – and even within the Jeep brand itself.
Land Rover is widely considered to be Jeep’s premier competition for off-road capability, yet the Wrangler outsold the entire Land Rover lineup in 2016 by over 100,000 vehicles. So why is the Jeep Wrangler still so popular after all these years? The answer is probably a combination of American heritage, unique authenticity, and trail rated capability that can either help Mom cart the kids around or help Dad navigate through this concrete jungle right here in the San Jacinto Valley.
Yes they are expensive new, but check out the resale value. However, people keep them for a long time and the mystery of its origin and success is part of the Jeep lure – which may never be fully solved.