Jeep was the result of the merger between the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation , an independent automobile manufacturing company based in Willow Run, Michigan, and the Toledo, Ohio-based Willys-Overland Company.
Founded by John North Willys, Willys-Overland had survived World War II by producing the Jeep vehicle for the armed forces, and Jeep was considered the crown jewel of Willys-Overland .
While Joseph Frazer had left Kaiser-Frazer by 1950, Frazer had been the one-time president of Willys-Overland. Going it alone, Henry J. Kaiser pursued the merger between Kaiser Industries and Willys-Overland, which was arranged in 1953; Kaiser hoped that the combined companies could provide a broad range of products that could compete with General Motors, the Chrysler Corporation and the Ford Motor Company, as well as Studebaker and the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation.
Following the collapse of the Kaiser and Willys makes in 1955, Kaiser Industries phased out its American passenger car business and shipped the dies to Brazil where the firm continued to build cars until the 1960s.
Willys Motors continued to sell its Jeep-based truck line in the United States including its CJ (Civilian Jeep) Series , all steel station wagon and forward-control FC-150 and FC-170 models that were introduced in 1957. In 1962, Willys introduced the Jeep Wagoneer as a 1963 model to replace the 1940s-style Jeep station wagons. Designed by industrial designer Brooks Stevens, the Wagoneer would remain in production until 1991, and is credited with being the first true American sport-utility vehicle (SUV).
As part of a general push to place all of their corporate holdings under the Kaiser name, in 1963, the company changed the name of Willys Motors to Kaiser Jeep Corporation and removed the Willys name from all of the vehicles.
In 1967, Kaiser Jeep resurrected the Jeepster (in concept; the vehicle was all-new, albeit loosely based on the CJ), which had been produced by Willys-Overland from 1948 to 1950. It was available in three models (roadster, convertible and pickup) and proved to be moderately popular.
American Motors Corporation, which was looking to expand its product line, had on a couple of occasions entered into negotiations with Kaiser executives, with the intention of purchasing the company. The deal was finally consummated in 1970, and Kaiser Jeep became simply Jeep Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Motors.