The word ”jeepney” is commonly believed to be a conflation of “jeep” and “jitney”, or “jeep” and “knee”, the latter referring to the jeepney’s crowded face-to-face seating.
When American troops began to leave the Philippines at the end of World War II, hundreds of surplus jeeps were sold or given to local Filipinos. Locals stripped down the jeeps to accommodate several passengers, added metal roofs for shade, and decorated the vehicles with vibrant colors and bright chrome plating and hood ornaments.
The jeepney rapidly emerged as a popular and creative way to reestablish inexpensive public transportation, which had been virtually destroyed during World War II. Recognizing the widespread use of these vehicles, the Philippine government began to place restrictions on their use. Drivers now must have specialized driver’s license, regular routes, and reasonably fixed fares.
ManufacturersAlthough the original jeepneys were simply refurbished military jeeps (Willys), modern jeepneys are now produced by independently owned workshops and factories within the Philippines. In the central Philippine island of Cebu, the bulk of jeepneys are built from second-hand Japanese trucks, originally intended for hauling cargo rather than passengers. These are euphemistically known as “surplus” trucks.
Recently the jeepney industry has faced threats to its survival in its current form. Most of the larger builders have either gone bankrupt or have switched to manufacturing other products. Currently there are 2 classes of jeepney builders in the Philippines. The backyard builders produce 1-5 vehicles a month, source their die stamped pieces from one of the larger manufacturers, and work with used engines and chassis from salvage yards (usually the Isuzu 4BA series diesel engines or the Mitsubishi Fuso 4D30 diesel engines–a shift from the Isuzu C240 engine that powered early jeepneys). The second type of manufacturer is the large volume manufacturer. They have 2 sub groups: the PUJ (Public Utility Jeep) and the large volume metal-stamping companies that supply parts as well as complete vehicles.
The jeepney builders in the past were mostly concentrated in Cebu City, Las PiÃ±as City and Cavite; however, with the recent slowdown of sales, many of the smaller builders have gone out of business. The largest manufacturer of owner-type jeeps in the Philippines is David Motors Inc. in Quezon City, located on the north side of Metro Manila. The largest manufacturer of vintage style army jeepneys is MD Juan.
Passenger jeepneys are also facing increasing restrictions and regulations for pollution controls, as they increase amounts of traffic and consume lots of fuel. A recent study published in a Metro Manila newspaper compared the fuel use of a 16-passenger jeepney to a 54-passenger air-conditioned bus and found that the fuel consumption for both was the same. With major roads clogged by empty jeepneys cruising for fares, there is intense pressure to remove them from the streets of Metro Manila and other cities.
The cost for a new jeepney will also rise due to the increased costs of raw materials like steel and the need to use new engines to power their vehicles. The supply of remanufactured used engines is slowly dropping as wear and age take their toll and the number of factories that rebuild engines diminishes.
The jeepney businesses in the Philippines are struggling to compete with imported used vehicles, and many manufacturers are moving to build more modern-looking jeepneys such as Hummer lookalikes and oversized Toyota van-style passenger jeepneys with Toyota headlights, hoods and bumpers. The jeepney industry has evolved more quickly in the past 2 years than it has in the past 50 and the chromey, loud, boisterous icon is soon to be a vehicle of the past.
Other manufacturers/marks include Mega (which also produces the Lanceta line of jeepneys, in Lipa City), Malaguena (whose factory in Cavite was the site of one of the very first Yield Stops of The Amazing Race), LGS Motors, Morales, Hebron, Marinel (jeepney makers based in Rizal Province which is popular for their ”patok” (popular) jeepneys which are equipped with high-powered sound system, aggressive fonts, and their speed) and Sarao (which is the most famous and based in Las Pinas City), and Armak (one of the largest). Another manufacturer PBJ motors manufactured jeepneys in Pampanga using techniques derived from Sarao motors.