A Brief History of the SUV
With the SUV forever growing in demand and popularity we thought we’d take a look at the history behind the modern family vehicle, from its early days in the military to the modern SUV of today.
The original vehicles that these modern family vehicles have evolved from weren’t designed for navigating the modern urban jungle but they were built for war.
In the 1940s it became apparent that the US was likely to get involved in the conflict escalating in Europe. The US government put out a request for designs for a
“robust, all-terrain vehicle that would transport troops and supplies”
135 automotive companies were contacted but only Willys Overland and American Bantam Car Company responded with designs. Through collaboration with Ford Motor Company the Willys MB and Ford Model GPW became the first mass produced SUV and were produced in large quantities for the war effort.
The military quickly nicknamed these vehicles ‘Jeeps. They played an important role in the war effort, helping the US, UK and Australian armies carry soldiers and their equipment across treacherous environments, whilst at the same time keeping the troops safe. After the war, the jeep went on sale to the public with the CJ-5 model, and became an extremely popular car, particularly in the US.
The origin of the word jeep has several theories but the most likely is that it came from the abbreviation GP (Government Purposes or General Purpose) and this was slurred into the word ‘Jeep’. Jeep was also a slang word used by US military before the 1940s and was used as a term for a new recruit.
Another explanation is from the cartoon character Eugene the Jeep, who appeared in the Popeye comic strip during 1936. This mythical animal of African origin could only say one word “jeep”. The character was very popular and held great affection at the time and it is thought that it may have inspired the nickname for military truck.
Later Daimler-Chrysler trademarked the word Jeep
Not to be outdone by their American allies, British brothers Maurice and Spencer Wilks created a design for a 4×4 vehicle called the ‘Land Rover’. The Land Rover was built using similar specifications to the Jeep but was designed to be more useful as a working vehicle for farmers. The Land Rover made its official debut in April 1948. Of course, the Land Rover would go onto become one of the most iconic vehicles of all time – with its very closely related successor, the Defender, remaining in production for 68 years, selling over 2 million units.
In 1950, when the Korean War broke out, the US military, who had bases in Japan, requested that Japanese automobile manufacturers Toyota develop a military vehicle that could be used by the US forces in battle. By 1951 they produced a prototype, although this was rejected in favour of the US Jeep. Later, in 1953, Toyota came up with the Toyota Land Cruiser, a 4×4 SUV that was large, powerful and durable, and was adopted by the Japanese National Police Agency.
This marketing term was thought up in the 1960s with Kaiser Jeep’s Super Wagoneer. It was the first SUV to offer a V8 engine, automatic transmission and luxury car trim – it even had air conditioning and a sun roof. The trend continued with Land Rover producing the Range Rover in 1970.
The SUV is certainly here to stay and is ever growing in popularity. The main reason is size, but the SUV has a lot of characteristics that other vehicles don’t have such as:
- A large cabin with between 5 and 7 seats
- 4×4 or all-wheel drive capabilities
- Passenger carrying combined with cargo hauling and towing abilities
- High ground clearance
People also perceive safety advantages of these sturdy vehicles making it a popular family choice.
From the 1990s onwards, the SUV has grown significantly thanks partly to becoming more affordable and economical with the likes of the Nissan Qashqai and Dacia Duster. However, manufacturers have identified the increasing demand and have developed models in order to get a share of the market.
While the SUV has come a long way since the early military vehicles it looks like it’s here to stay and is growing steadily in market share.
If you would like a quotation on an SUV or any other vehicle please get in touch, we’d be happy to help.