By Terry Troy
Jeep’s commitment to Toledo expands with new truck
No one really knows exactly how the name came into the American lexicon, including the company itself. But like the vehicle it represents, the Jeep name is the stuff of legend.
Some claim the name came from a slurring of the letters “GP,” the military abbreviation for “General Purpose.” Others say the moniker was adopted by GIs in the field, the vehicle being named after Eugene the Magical Jeep in Popeye cartoons for its almost magical qualities of getting out of muddy and sticky situations.
So what’s the company’s position?
The two theories are “all we’ve ever said or written on the topic,” admits Jodi Tinson, a spokesperson for FCA, the parent company of the Jeep brand.
We do know that the first Jeep grew out of a request from the U.S. military for a “light reconnaissance vehicle” that would replace the Army’s motorcycle and modified Ford Model T vehicles. Ford entered the competition with a vehicle called the GP Pygmy, while Willys-Overland produced a vehicle called the Willys Quad, which would later be known as the Jeep vehicle of today.
The company was acquired by AMC in 1970, which itself was later acquired by Chrysler. The Fiat Group would subsequently acquire Chrysler in early 2014, the two entities becoming known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the brand’s worldwide corporate parent today.
Whatever its origin, today the Jeep name is as American as apple pie and it’s one of the fastest growing brands in the country. And its home is the Greater Toledo area.
“Jeep vehicles have been built in Toledo for nearly 80 years, so Jeep and Toledo have almost become synonymous,” says Jim Morrison, head of Jeep Brand for FCA North America. “Our employees say they work at the Jeep plant or Toledo Jeep. We are very proud of that because it’s where the rubber meets the road. The heart and soul of every Jeep Wrangler, and now every Jeep Gladiator, is rooted in Toledo.”
The company stands by Toledo, investing more than $1.5 billion in its two facilities there, and adding more than 1,700 jobs since 2011. Today, more than 7,500 are employed at the two plants. When you add in the first tier suppliers located within 10 miles of the brand’s facilities, the impact Jeep has on the region’s economy is staggering. Judging from its investments and recent product announcements, Jeep is not about to leave. Indeed, Toledo is now home of the long-awaited Jeep Gladiator, the brand’s recent foray into the light pickup truck market.
“Toledo was an obvious choice as the new home for the Jeep Gladiator for a number of business reasons, but primarily because so much of its DNA comes from the Wrangler,” says Morrison. “But more importantly, it was because of the Toledo workforce. They understand their role in protecting the legacy of the Jeep brand, so it made sense to entrust them with building the newest member of the Jeep family.”
The new Gladiator was an instant hit. The 2020 Gladiator dominated the Northwest Automotive Press Association’s 25th annual Mudfest in May, and was named to Ward’s 10 Best Interiors in April. Also, a limited 2020 Jeep Gladiator Launch Edition of 4,190 vehicles sold out in just one day.
It all bodes well for this iconic All-American and All-Ohio brand.