Jeep is a brand of American automobiles that is a division of Chrysler Group LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Italian multinational automaker Fiat S.p.A. The former Chrysler Corporation acquired the Jeep brand, along with the remaining assets of its owner American Motors, in 1987. Jeep's product range current consists solely of sport utility vehicles and off-road vehicles, but has also included pickup trucks in the past.
The first Willys MB Jeeps were produced in 1941, making it the oldest off-road vehicle ever made, and the first civilian models were produced in 1945. It inspired a number of other light utility vehicles, such as the Land Rover which is the second oldest 4-wheel-drive brand. The original Jeep vehicle that first appeared as the prototype Bantam BRC became the primary light 4-wheel-drive vehicle of the United States Army and Allies during World War II, as well as the postwar period. Many Jeep variants serving similar military and civilian roles have since been created in other nations.
Toledo, Ohio has been the headquarters of the Jeep brand since its inception, and the city has always been proud of this heritage. Although no longer produced in the same Toledo Complex as the World War II originals, two streets in the vicinity of the old plant are named Willys Parkway and Jeep Parkway.
American Motors set up the first automobile-manufacturing joint venture in the People's Republic of China on January 15, 1984. The result was Beijing Jeep Corporation, Ltd., in partnership with Beijing Automobile Industry Corporation, to produce the Jeep Cherokee (XJ) in Beijing. Manufacture continued after Chrysler's buyout of AMC. This joint venture is now part of DaimlerChrysler and DaimlerChrysler China Invest Corporation. The original 1984 XJ model was updated and called the "Jeep 2500" toward the end of its production that ended after 2005.
A division of Chrysler Group LLC, the most recent successor company to the Jeep brand, now holds trademark status on the name "Jeep" and the distinctive 7-slot front grille design. The original 9-slot grille associated with all World War II jeeps was designed by Ford for their GPW, and because it weighed less than the original "Slat Grille" of Willys (an arrangement of flat bars), was incorporated into the "standardized jeep" design.