Jeep, with its roots in a 4×4 used by the U.S. military in World War II, has been commercially available since 1945. Jeep has had a number of models over those years. The high end of its model line today is the Jeep Cherokee, introduced in 1974. The head of the Cherokee Nation has asked Jeep to drop the Cherokee name.
In a note to magazine Car & Driver magazine, Chuck Hoskin Jr., principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, said, “I’m sure this comes from a place that is well-intended, but it does not honor us by having our name plastered on the side of a car.” Jeep is owned by massive international auto company Fiat Chrysler and is among its best-selling brands in the United States.
Hoskin pointed out that there was already precedent for removing Indian names from other branding. He also said to Car & Driver, “I think we’re in a day and age in this country where it’s time for both corporations and team sports to retire the use of Native American names, images and mascots from their products, team jerseys and sports in general.” Many colleges and high schools have dropped the Indian names for their teams. The Washington Redskins dropped the offending part of its name after decades and is currently known as the Washington Football Team.
Jeep did not offer much of a response:
Our vehicle names have been carefully chosen and nurtured over the years to honor and celebrate Native American people for their nobility, prowess, and pride. We are, more than ever, committed to a respectful and open dialogue with Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.
In fact, Jeep can ill afford to drop the Cherokee name. It has decades of branding behind the vehicles, and sales of the Cherokee lineup are essential to Jeep products. Jeep calls it the “most awarded SUV.” The Cherokee and Grand Cherokee are Jeep’s two most expensive models. The Cherokee has a base price of $26,555. The Grand Cherokee has a base price of $34,220. With a number of options, that price rises as high as $87,915 for the Trailhawk model.
Jeep does risk a great deal, however, by keeping the Cherokee name. National boycotts of products are common if customers believe a company has mistreated a person or group. The pressure to take the “redskin” name off the NFL team was tremendous. The Cleveland Indians face the same pressure. The press has reported in the past several weeks that the team’s name will be dropped, after 105 years.
The Cherokee problem will not end for Jeep. The name, once again in the public eye, will continue to cause controversy.
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