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Jeep "sculpture" at Chrysler Jeep plant in Toledo
Jeep sculpture on the north side of the old Jeep plant, Toledo, Ohio

Legacy of Jeep

Between 1940 and 2000, more than 10 million cars and trucks had rolled off Jeep assembly lines in Toledo. Dubbed the "Jeep" by soldiers during the 1940 test run of the Army's new vehicle, the name was picked up by the media and stuck. The Jeep, which became a trademark name, was developed by the Willys-Overland company in Toledo to meet Army specifications for a vehicle that could carry 625 pounds, but did not weigh more than 1,400 pounds.

Before the Jeep was introduced to the public, the U.S. Armed Forces had used 600,000 of these vehicles during World War II, of which 57 percent were manufactured in Toledo. After the war, Willys-Overland began selling the Jeep to the public for $1,090. Jeeps, known as the "Jacks of All Trades," were used as railroad engines in Burma, as snowplows in the Aleutian Mountains, and bulldozers in France. Domestically they were popular with farmers. After Willys-Overland sold Jeep to Edgar Kaiser, the Kaiser Jeep became the fourth largest automobile maker in the country. Jeeps continued to be improved and to sell.

In 1960, the American Motors Corporation purchased the company for $86 million, marking the beginning of AMC's glory years. With the exception of Jeep, AMC's position in the automobile business eventually sank, and the company was purchased by Chrysler in 1987 for $1.5 billion. The new owner was considering moving Jeep operations.

The City of Toledo and Jeep employees were determined to convince Chrysler that Toledo was the best location for the Jeep plant. The city and employees recognized that teamwork was the key to reaching new heights. Management created a new and highly productive relationship with the workforce. Plant workers began to work together on all levels with a positive attitude. Business began to boom at the Toledo Jeep plant, resulting in record-setting months, and a 10 percent production increase. As a result of the constant work and effort on the part of employees, Chrysler spent $31.6 million to boost Jeep production in Toledo. In 1989, Jeep cracked the Japanese market, among the most affluent and discerning in the world, which was attracted to Jeep's four-wheel drive. To keep pace with sales, in 1998 Chrysler broke ground for a 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility. As a result, Toledo will be the proud owner of the newest automotive assembly plant, as well as the oldest continuously operating plant in the United States.

In year 2000, Jeep was the single largest economic contributor to the City of Toledo, accounting for 15,000 area jobs, and 20 percent of the city's income tax revenues.

Documentation includes a seven-page report, a Jeep inventory, newspaper articles, and images on two diskettes.

Originally submitted by: Marcy Kaptur, Representative (9th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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