The Reaction to the Jeep Wagoneer
The reaction to the Jeep Wagoneer was unprecedented. The public flocked to Jeep dealers to see the new Wagoneer. Although Willys had anticipated increased sales, it was unable to keep up with the tremendous demand.
With the exception of optional air conditioning,
the 1964 Jeep Wagoneer mostly stood pat.
During 1963, Wagoneer helped set a retail sales record for Jeep in the U.S. as sales rose 42 percent to $220,799,000 and an operating profit of $9,357,000 was recorded. New dealers flocked to the Willys standard, and by year's end, the sales force numbered 1,600 franchised dealers, the highest number in years.
One historically regrettable event occurred in March 1963: Kaiser Industries vice president Steve Girard announced that the company was dropping the Willys Motors name.
From that point, the division would be known as Kaiser Jeep Corporation. The reason was a desire "to properly identify the Toledo company as one of the growing Kaiser family of industries." The Willys name would continue in some overseas markets, though.
Although there were no significant appearance changes for 1964, Wagoneers offered a new feature especially appreciated by families -- air conditioning. Although the feature wasn't as popular then as it is today, it was important for Wagoneer to offer the full range of passenger-car comforts, which enhanced Jeep's reputation for pioneering new ideas.
In response to complaints of engine knock in high-altitude areas, a lower-compression 133-bhp version of the Tornado OHC was made available.
Sales continued at a good pace and Kaiser Jeep reported an operating profit of $11.1 million for 1964 on record sales of $255,582,000. The sales network grew to 2,150 dealers and production of Wagoneers was begun at several overseas affiliates.
To follow the Wagoneer story into 1965, continue on to the next page.
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