The Jeep model defined Willys-Overland. Their significant role in World War II contributed to the Allied victory that Americans savored.
Between 1912 and 1918, Willys-Overland was the 2nd largest US auto manufacturer, only behind Ford. Nearly 360,000 Jeeps were built for World War II, and Willys-Overland quickly trademarked that name as soon as the conflict was over. Civilian sales of the Jeep did not go over well after the war, but the company found a niche for people wanting a lightweight four wheel drive vehicle that could make it through rough terrain. In 1928, the company was third in national production. Despite new releases like the Jeepster in 1950 and the Aero-Wing sedan in 1952, Willys struggled in the passenger car arena.
Henry Kaiser purchased Willys-Overland between 1953 and 1954 and renamed it Willys Motor Company. The notable Aero Ace of 1954 was a contrast to the big hood ornaments and flashy chrome other manufacturers were promoting. For only $1735, buyers could get a trim, compact vehicle with sturdy bumpers and a utilitarian interior. The last Willys car was produced in 1955, but the Jeep model would continue. The name changed to Kaiser-Jeep in 1963, and in 1970 was sold to AMC. Chrysler purchased AMC in 1987, and dissolved the business, but kept the Jeep brand and name, riding it into the frenzy of Sport Utility Vehicles.