2000 Ford Explorer
2000 Ford ExplorerEnlarge Photo
A category killer that updated the family station wagon's image, the Explorer fattened Ford with profits throughout the Nineties, from the day it was introduced in 1991. It's fair to say the profits from Explorer alone could have bankrolled Ford's Volvo and Land Rover acquisitions at the end of the decade. The party came to a screeching halt, though, in 2000, when reports of tread separation on Firestone tires on some Ford Explorers led to a huge recall. Some 270 fatalities were linked to the problem, and the massive public-relations debacle at the automaker wasn't completely put to rest for years.
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2011 Jeep Grand CherokeeEnlarge Photo
The Jeep Grand Cherokee could have beaten the Explorer to the punch, as development was largely complete in 1987, when Chrysler was devolving from Renault. The separation delayed the Grand Cherokee's introduction to the 1992 model year, but it didn't put a damper on sales. The Jeep SUV instantly challenged the Explorer for sales supremacy, and went toe to toe for most of the 1990s, cultivating a more rugged reputation that served it well until SUVs began to fall out of favor. Today's Grand Cherokee is the best ever, based on Mercedes' M-Class architecture, and sales are booming once more--helping Jeep sales to pass those of Chrysler's more mainstream Dodge brand.