New avatar of Jeep
The vehicle is expected to give tough competition to others in its class.
On 1 June 2017, the Indian wing of the Automobile maker M/S Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) rolled out the first locally manufactured ‘Jeep’ ‘Compass’, a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) from its factory based at Ranjangaon near Pune in Maharashtra.
The establishment of manufacturing operations and start of production of the Jeep Compass is an important milestone for FCA’s journey in India. Earlier, the company sold two imported models, Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Cherokee.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, also known as FCA, is an Italian-controlled multinational corporation incorporated in the Netherlands, and currently the world’s seventh largest automaker.
By the end of 2017, the brand name Jeep will be carried in India by three models -- Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Grand Cherooke, in addition to the newly introduced Jeep Compass. With this, India has joined China, Mexico and Brazil as a manufacturing and export hub for the Jeep Compass.
The Jeep Compass has gone in full production from July this year and vehicles are expected to hit the market dur- ing the third quarter of the year in three variants -- Sport, Longitude and Limited.
The Ranjangaon manufacturing facility, a 50:50 joint venture between FCA and Tata Motors, has a capacity to produce 1.6 lakh vehicles and 3.5 lakh engines per annum. The Indian plant is the only one among the four global manufacturing units of FCA that will roll out right hand drive models.
Many readers, who were born in early 1930s, might remember an olive green canvas covered vehicle with or without a trailer behind it, carrying a message “Left Hand Drive. No Signal.” Left hand drive vehicles were new to India as Indian cars were then and even now are made with driver’s seat on the right side, as the English legacy.
What they saw was one of the Jeeps left behind in India by Allied Army after the end of World War II (WW II) in 1945. Many government departments used them for many more years.
As everyone knows the Jeep is a WW II product. During early days of WW II, the US Army needed a fast, lightweight all-terrain vehicle. In 1940, the Army called American car manufacturers to create a working model satisfying their specifications within forty-nine days.
The Pennsylvania-based American Bantam Car Co. was actually first on the scene, responding to the Army’s desire for a new vehicle with three lightweight models. Bantam eventually won the bid for prototype production and delivered
its first specimen – “Blitz Buggy” – in September 1940.
Representatives from Willys-Overland and Ford (well-known automobile makers) were also invited to the Blitz Buggy’s trials. The Willys-Overland prototype known as the Quad eventually became the finally approved design.
After evaluating prototypes from all three manufacturers, the Army proposed a hybrid version, based largely on the Quad. Willys then outbid the others for the first large trial run – 26,000 km – in July of 1941, and the new vehicle which came to be called “Jeep” was on its way to glory.
Vehicle that aided in victory
Jeep was one of the three items, which won the WW II for the Allied Forces. Some 6,00,000 units were built during the war, 368,714 of them by Willys. The Jeep continued its reputation in Korean War. And there didn’t seem to be any doubt about the civilian market potential. Willys-Overland civilian prototype of Jeep was called CJ-1A (Civilian Jeep). CJ-1A led to CJ-2A, which went on sale in August 1945.
Even though the Jeep was the motorised symbol of the American Army during WW II and the Korean War, by the 1970s it had become obsolete.
As the only company that continually produced Jeep vehicles after the WW II, Willys-Overland was granted the privilege of owning the name “Jeep” as a registered trademark, in June 1950. After passing through many hands, the brand ‘Jeep’ is now with FCA.
Though the vehicles carry the words “Jeep”, the appearance is far from the picture of a Jeep deeply etched in the minds of Indians. These tough new Jeeps are made to cater to the luxury segment. What you get is a car with the face of a jeep. There is AC, music system, plush interiors and the like.
The birth of Jeep in India began when Mr. Keshub C. Mahindra visited the United States of America as Chairman of the India Supply Mission. While in the US, he met Barney Roos, inventor of the rugged Jeep and had a flash of inspiration. Wouldn’t a vehicle that had proved its invincibility on the battlefields of World War II be ideal for India’s rugged terrain and its rural roads?
The Mahindra brothers (Keshub and Harish) joined hands with a distinguished gentleman Ghulam Mohammad. And, on 2 October 1945, Mahindra & Mohammad was set up as a franchise for assembling jeeps from Willys, USA.
Two years later, India became an independent nation and Mahindra & Mohammad changed its name to Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M). Ghulam Mohammad migrated to Pakistan after partition and became the first Finance Minister of Pakistan.
After a few years, the brand name “Jeep” disappeared and the vehicle was called Mahindra. However, as in the case of some cities like Mumbai, where the old name ‘Bombay’ still persists on, the vehicle is still called a ‘Jeep’.
Origin of name
The origin of the name “Jeep” is also surrounded with mystery. The majority seems to favour EC Segar's old "Popeye" comic strip as the source for the name, borrowed from the mysterious dog like companion "Eugene the Jeep” in the comic.
Another contention is that the name was coined by one Sgt. James T. O'Brien in Fort Ripley, Kansas. O'Brien was test driving another vehicle and referred to the vehicle as a Jeep.
A third contention is that the Ford prototype was called General Purpose Vehicle, which was shortened to GP that eventually became Jeep.