The Jeep was originally a joint venture by the Bantam Motor Company, founded in 1905, and the Willys-Overland Motor Company, founded in 1908. The first vehicle known as a Jeep was built in 1940. Jeep as a brand name was trademarked in 1950.
The U.S. Army during World War II was looking for an improved all-terrain vehicle. The Bantam Motor Company submitted a design that eventually became the Jeep. The Army accepted the design and passed it along to the larger Willys-Overland Motor Company for production. While the vehicle's official name was the Willys MB, the name Jeep was eventually adopted by soldiers. The origin of the name is debated; some believe it is a modified pronunciation of GP, the designation given to general purpose vehicles by the Army, while others believe it comes from a reference to a hardy character from the "Popeye" comic strip. The Jeep name stuck and referred to similar vehicles later made by Willys-Overland.