Kaiser Jeep was the result of the merger between the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, an independent automaker 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 W. Frazer had left Kaiser-Frazer by 1950, Frazer had been the one-time president of Willys-Overland. Going it alone, Henry J. Kaiser pursued a merger between Kaiser Industries and Willys-Overland, which was arranged in 1953. Kaiser's finances ultimately dictated that he could no longer compete with the established manufacturers in the passenger car business in the US, but he saw value in Willys' Jeep line.
In 1955, Kaiser phased out both the Kaiser and Willys passenger car lines, and shipped the dies to Argentina where the joint venture with the Argentina Government owned Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) continued to build cars through the 1977 when Renault took over.
Under the name "Willys Motors", the Jeep-based truck line continued in the United States including the 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 (later known as the Grand Wagoneer) would remain in production with the major architecture totally unchanged 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.
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 (AMC), 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 "Jeep Corporation", a wholly owned subsidiary of AMC.
American Motors would be bought out by Chrysler Corporation in 1987, and the Jeep line was purchased along with the rest of the company. Currently, Jeep is still an active brand of Chrysler Group LLC.