Willys-Jeep-WW2

MCHOF’20: Automotive Brand of the Year is a Jeep Thing

When you think about the American auto industry during World War II, you think of vehicle production that was put on pause for several years to build tanks and other equipment instead. One current make of American vehicles was in mass production the whole time, however. Although not available for civilian use, the humble but mighty Jeep was born and never stopped. For those heroic origins and unwavering cultural impact, Jeep is the Model Car Hall of Fame’s Automotive Brand of the Year for 2020.

Jeep Gladiator green

First built by Willys (and in smaller numbers, Ford) for World War II, the basic 4WD open Jeep has remained in production for over 70 years. Okay, the newer versions are a little bitter. And more comfortable. And faster. and a way more technologically advanced. But the basic recipe that gave rise to the first military versions remains in today’s most rugged models.

The cultural impact of Jeep runs deep. Loyalists wave at each other, fiercely defend their brand to those who “wouldn’t understand,” and customize or modify with ease to suit their needs. It’s the kind of loyalty shared by only a few other marques or models such as Porsche or Mustang.

Jeep has veered well into the luxury SUV world because good business is where you find it. And like Porsche and Lamborghini whose SUV offerings keep the really fun part of the company alive, these keep the Wrangler and Gladiator pickup models feasible.

Jeep Jurassic_World

In the world of diecast, just look at how many Gladiator models have become available. Stock, off-road, custom, top up or down… Jeep really read the room on what this new pickup should be. Think about it, modern trucks have become bigger and bigger with more space devoted to a large cab and a relatively small bed. The Gladiator takes the same dimensions and makes it into a bare-bones adventuremobile on top of that.

In the uncertainty of the COVID crisis, one could argue that the safest, most freedom-loving thing to do was to drop the top on your car and take in some fresh air on a nice day. Jeep certainly makes a lot of vehicles that suit those needs. That kind of fresh thinking is why Jeep is our 2020 Automotive Brand of the Year.