New avatar of Jeep

The ve­hi­cle is ex­pected to give tough com­pe­ti­tion to oth­ers in its class.

Alive - - News - by G.V. Joshi

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.

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