And by “it,” I mean “Jeep.” TTAC commenter “skor” explains the whole sordid affair:
Jeep was developed by the American Bantam Car Company. The design was purchased by the US Government from American Bantam and given to Willys-Overland with large orders going to Ford. Immediately after WWII American Bantam went bankrupt.
At the conclusion of WWII, Willys-Overland and Ford fought it out over who owned the Jeep design … a court ruled that the rights to the Jeep name and design were owned by Willys-Overland. Although the Jeep sold well in the post war years for Willys-Overland, they struggled with the rest of their auto business, and in 1953 Willys-Overland was purchased by Kaiser Motors.
The Jeep sold well for Kaiser, but the rest of their car biz sank like a stone. In 1963 Kaiser renamed itself Kaiser-Jeep. Business only got worse for Kaiser-Jeep through the 60’s, so in 1969 Kaiser-Jeep was acquired by AMC.
The Jeep sold well for AMC, but their car biz went from bad to worse during the 70’s, and in 1979 AMC was purchased by Renault.
The Jeep sold well for Renault but the rest of the AMC line-up didn’t do so well. In 1986 Renault’s chairman, Georges Besse, was murdered by the communist terrorist group, Action Directe. In 1987, AMC was purchased by Chrysler.
The Jeep sold well for Chrysler, but the rest of the AMC products were canned. During the 90’s Chrysler’s fortunes were starting to wane. In 1998 Chrysler hooked up with Daimler-Benz AG in a “Merger Of Equals”.
Jeeps sold well for DaimlerChrysler AG, but soon problems sprung up with the rest of the Chrysler line. Bleeding money, the Germans unloaded Chrysler/Jeep, at a huge loss, on Cerberus Capital Management in 2007. The Germans actually paid Cerberus to take Chrysler/Jeep.
The hell hound almost never lost money on any of its business deals, but in 2009 they were forced to take Chrysler into bankruptcy. The American government essentially paid Fiat to take Chrysler/Jeep.
Today the Jeep brand continues to sell well, but it appears that Fiat is in some major trouble.
That’s what they get for naming a vehicle “Cherokee,” right? Probably not; the first Cherokee appeared for 1974, during the AMC years, by which time Jeep had already destroyed two automakers.
In an earlier article for TTAC, Rich Truesdell attempted to explain the phenomenon this way:
[Its] core strength — go-anywhere capability — has always been its weakness. In other words, whether serving the military, farm owners, off-road enthusiasts or Soccer Moms, Jeep is a niche brand. As recent history has shown (e.g., Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, Saab, HUMMER, Volvo, etc.), large companies and niche brands make terrible bedfellows. Big companies seek volume above all; a tendency that tends to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
This particular goose, though, seems to be killing its ostensible masters.