Jeep: The Changing Faces of a Classic American Automobile

Jeep Renegade
The Jeep is an iconic American brand with a legacy spanning over 70 years. During this period, this automobile’s production changed hands among various corporations, including the pioneers Willys, followed by Kaiser, then AMC, and currently Chrysler. This has resulted in a significant revolution in the looks and performance of the Jeep vehicle, based on the design and marketing priorities of each successive corporation. For true Jeep loyalists, some of these innovations, especially the most recent ones by Chrysler, have been received with less enthusiasm than their engineers anticipated. Among some of the causes for concern among Jeep traditionalists include:

Increasing European Stylistic Influences

Jeep Cherokee
Since the Fiat Corporation gained majority ownership of Chrysler, there have been pronounced changes in the Jeep’s design to suit a more ‘global’ market. The Jeep Cherokee is a perfect example of such design modification with its increasingly streamlined form and Jeep light profiles that render it practically identical to any other European SUV brand. The only familiar thing that remains is the seven billet Jeep grille. While the Wrangler models have maintained some consistency in looks, there are already a lot of softened touches in the interior. Indeed it appears it may only be a matter of time before the classic design is also altered to fit generic market demands.

Excessive Brand Diversification

Over the years, Chrysler’s ownership changes have seen more Jeep models churned out than during any of the other company’s eras. Models such as Jeepstar Commandos, Wagoneers, J-series pickups, Patriot, Compass, Commander, Cherokee FSJ, Cherokee XJ and Grand Cherokee were launched by AMC and Chrysler to provide the market with options for their favorite 4 wheel brand. While some of these models performed well, there was a general feeling that they helped devolve the original Jeep image and opened the way for the latter style modifications.

Functionality Changes

While evolving style innovations may be a necessary part of the Jeep revolution, there are also some major changes in the overall function of Jeep automobiles. Such changes include independent suspension systems in place of the tried and tested front and rear solid axle. For the American Jeep enthusiast who thrives on off road exploration, this change not only reduces off road performance, but may also increase repair costs.
Jeep Wrangler

Customization Options

Most Jeep purists believe that there should be a middle ground, where the Jeep engineers can continue with their design experimentation and still provide the American Jeep with its basic and reliable style and function. However, because of market bundling for obvious marketing reasons, new Jeep owners have very little say over what their version of a Jeep will be. This means that although the newer Jeep models already cost a pretty penny, it would cost you extra to custom order a Jeep without all the new high tech gadgetry and designs.

Despite the increasingly evolving features and functionality of the Jeep, it still remains entrenched as a significant part of America’s automobile heritage. As the SUV of choice for unmatched performance and flexibility, the Jeep, whether it bears the classic or emerging style, will continue to influence America’s driving culture for many years to come. Ask us more about our collection of reliable and affordable Jeep parts and accessories.

By: James Langston
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