The Jeep Eagle division was formed in 1988 as a result of Chrysler acquiring Jeep’s parent company, American Motors Corporation (AMC) in the previous year. However, Eagle can trace its roots back to 1954. During its formative years, AMC succeeded in becoming one of the first auto manufacturers in the U.S. to challenge the Big Three: Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. Over the years, AMC’s Jeep marque went on to become one of the most popular and endearing American automotive brands.
When Chrysler acquired AMC, it launched the Eagle brand in an effort to compete with top-selling Japanese imports such as the Toyota Camry and the Honda Civic. Early vehicles produced by the company included the Eagle Premier and Eagle Medallion, both of which were adapted from vehicles produced by French automaker, Renault. Many of the other early model Eagles were based on models produced by another of Chrysler’s partners like the Japanese automaker, Mitsubishi.
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Eagle History Through The Years
Early Renault-inspired Eagle models such as the Medallion and the Premier were popular with American drivers. In its day, the Premier was even regarded as one of the sportiest sedans on the U.S. market. However, Eagle’s greatest success on the American automobile market came from the sale of Jeeps. Jeeps and Eagles were frequently sold out of the same showrooms in the United States.
Unfortunately, the two brands were seen as being at odds with each other by American drivers. This had a negative impact on the Eagle brand’s ability to catch on in the U.S. Many potential Eagle buyers at the dealership became distracted by the more appealing and ever-popular Jeeps. Many dealerships even regarded the Eagle to be less profitable than the Jeep.
Eventually, Chrysler chose to sell Jeeps exclusively through Jeep dealerships. This handily coincided with the SUV boom of the 1990s. As sports utility vehicles became increasingly popular throughout the U.S., the Eagle brand was left in the rearview mirror by many American drivers. Eventually, Chrysler chose to discontinue Eagle as a brand altogether. The final vehicle to be released under the Eagle name was the 1997 Eagle Talon. However, even the Talon was essentially a repackaged version of the Mitsubishi Eclipse.
Despite the relative failure of Eagle as an automobile brand, it manufactured quality vehicles during its brief existence.
In addition to being sporty, the Eagle Premier was light, featuring an independent suspension and rack and pinion steering that was engineered for handling. The car benefited from Renault’s decades of experience with front-wheel drive. Even today, the Premier can be regarded as having a level of engineering that was unprecedented in an AMC or Chrysler sedan.
The Medallion, meanwhile, was originally developed by Renault and was repackaged as an Eagle for the American market. The Medallion featured a 2.2-liter engine taken from the European model Renault 25. It was available as a four-door sedan and a station wagon. The Medallion, like the Premier, benefited from Renault’s experience with front-wheel drive.
Between 1989 and 1996, Eagle also produced the Summit, which was an economical, affordable subcompact powered by a four-cylinder engine.
The Eagle Vision was a full-size sedan that, similar to the Summit, Medallion and Premier, had front-wheel drive. It was available between 1993 and 1997 as it sold reasonably well.
However, in the case of Eagle, the company saved the best for last. Released in 1997, the Eagle Talon proved to be the most endearing and well-received vehicle released by the company. As a striking sports coupe, the Talon featured a hatchback body style and its top-level trim model came with a turbocharged four-cylinder and all-wheel drive. While in a standard trim model, Talons aren’t much faster than any other compact coupes from the same era, the top trim turbo edition is still regarded as one of the fasted coupes of the 1990s.
Eagle Products and Technologies
During its brief existence, the Eagle brand carved out a reputation for introducing eclectic vehicles into the American automotive market. While Eagle could be regarded as a culling together of different badge-engineered vehicles from companies like Mitsubishi, Renault, and Chrysler, the company produced interesting cars aimed at various segments of the automotive market throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. The demise of Eagle is more about of the mismanagement of the brand and the casualties that are some times incurred when major automotive companies merge with one another. Many Eagle models are still regarded as reliable, economically-friendly used cars even in today’s market.