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In 1902 bicycle salesman John North Willys became a car salesman. He got a sole agency for Overland cars, but there was an explosion at the factory in Toledo, Ohio which put off Overland's owners, the Standard Wheel Co. Overland designer Claude Cox rescued the firm, but he ran out of cash, so in 1908 Willys (the only customer) acquired Overland, and in 1912 he renamed it Willys-Overland Motor Co, with US sales only exceeded by Ford. Willys usual close attention wavered with a number of acquisitions, and there was a damaging strike at the Toledo plant, leading to receivership. Walter Chrysler was brought in to rescue Willys-Overland, but he tried to take it over himself, was rebuffed, and acquired Maxwell instead. Willys sold off some assets and got his firm back on track. The Whippet, a new economy car, was launched in 1926. Sales and profits grew, but in 1929 John North Willys resigned as president and sold all his shares, just before the stock market crash, and left to become a US Ambassador. In 1932 sales collapsed, and Willys returned to the firm, but he died from a heart attack in 1935. His rescue plan pulled the firm out of receivership, but it was the awarding of a government contract to make the GP (Jeep) which saved the day, though more Jeeps were built by Ford in wartime. Postwar Willys cars were not popular, so Civilian Jeeps (CJ) brought in the profits, the CJ2, the woodie-style Jeep Station Wagon, the Jeep truck, Jeepster and the CJ-3. In 1953 Kaiser acquired Willys-Overland, which in 1963 was re-organised as Kaiser-Jeep. From 1954 to 1983 over 600,000 CJ5s were sold. In 1956 the FC forward control range began. In 1970 Kaiser sold Kaiser-Jeep to American Motors, which in 1979 sold it on to Renault. In 1987 Chrysler acquired AMC (including Jeep) from Renault. In 1998 Chrysler merged with Daimler-Benz, as DaimlerChrysler. In 2001 the last Jeep Cherokee was sold. Subsequent models included the Liberty (KJ), Commander (XK), Wrangler (JK), Patriot (MK) and Compass (MK). In 2007 DaimlerChrysler sold Chrysler to Cerberus Capital, but in 2009 it faced bankruptcy, and the US government brought in Fiat to rescue Chrysler. By 2013 Fiat had acquired all the shares in Chrysler, the combined Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Group becoming the seventh-largest car making operation in the world, with Jeep as one of its lead brands.
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