Bob Lutz, who was president of Chrysler Corp. when it purchased American Motors in 1987, says getting Jeep in the deal "marked a strategic turning point for Chrysler."
"We acquired an iconic brand which had been undernourished," he said.
Adding the Grand Cherokee to Jeep's lineup in 1992 was the first big move by the brand's new stewards.
Lutz said the Grand Cherokee "was originally intended to replace the Cherokee but turned out too large and too costly, so we promoted it to "Grand' and kept the Cherokee underneath it. Between the Grand Cherokee and the Cherokee we suddenly had an additional 500,000 high-margin units."
Chrysler "had people who understood the [Jeep] brand," said Lutz. "The only semi-slip-up was the Compass" because the "carlike" design is wrong for the brand.
"Now, Jeep is over 1 million units, recognized the world over, respected universally, perhaps the strongest brand in the U.S. industry, one of the strongest globally," the retired Chrysler and General Motors executive said.
"Without Jeep, FCA would die. The Jeep brand is worth more than FCA as a whole."