Mark Allen, the esteemed Head of Jeep® Design, is bidding farewell to a remarkable career spanning three decades. As one of the most recognizable brands in the automotive industry, Jeep has become synonymous with rugged off-road capability and timeless design. Under Allen’s leadership, the brand has successfully preserved its iconic heritage while continuously evolving. As he embarks on a new chapter in life, let’s take a look back at Allen’s journey from a car designer to a passionate Jeep enthusiast and his significant contributions to both the Jeep and Dodge brands.
From a young age, Allen knew that he wanted to be an automotive designer. His aspirations led him to the College for Creative Studies (CSS) in Detroit, where he set his sights on working for the Chrysler Corporation under the renowned Tom Gale, the Head of Design at the time. Allen was captivated by Gale’s team, known for producing incredible concepts that exuded energy and creativity.
In 1993, Allen’s dream of working with Tom Gale came true when he secured an internship with the Chrysler Corporation. After graduating from CCS in 1994, Allen landed a job in the Dodge Truck and Jeep Studio.
Although he initially aspired to be a car designer, his perspective shifted during his first Easter Jeep Safari (EJS) at Moab, Utah. Experiencing the off-road prowess of Jeep vehicles firsthand, Allen became a devoted Jeep enthusiast and promptly purchased his first 2001 Jeep Wrangler (TJ), which he still owns to this day.
Allen’s career at Jeep took a transformative turn with the establishment of the SkunkWerks team. He and a group of passionate designers, engineers, marketers, and product planners formed a team dedicated to creating one-off custom vehicles. Eventually renamed the Mopar Underground, the team focused on building vehicles for the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas.
One of Allen’s notable contributions was the creation of the 2004 Jeep Liberty (KJ) Liberator Concept, which made its debut at SEMA. Recognizing its suitability for the EJS, Allen took the vehicle to the event, marking the brand’s first appearance. Since then, the EJS has become an essential platform for unveiling new concept vehicles and engaging with Jeep enthusiasts, offering valuable insights into their preferences and desires. The event has now become a cherished tradition for all Jeep brand designers.
Allen was also the brainchild behind the beloved V-10-powered 1997 Dodge Dakota Sidewinder Concept.
Allen’s team has crafted numerous concept vehicles for the EJS throughout his tenure. Among these creations, Allen is fond of the Jeep Nukizer 715 Concept, an all-purpose truck paying homage to the legendary Kaiser M-715 military truck. Personally involved in the design process, Allen managed the entire build and affectionately regards it as his dream vehicle.
When Allen started his career at Jeep, the brand had only three products and a small design studio. Over the years, Allen played a pivotal role in overseeing the expansion of the Jeep lineup, which now includes the Cherokee, Compass, Gladiator, Grand Cherokee, three-row Grand Cherokee L, Grand Cherokee 4xe, Renegade, Wrangler, and Wrangler 4xe. Additionally, Allen played a key role in the revival of the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models as a premium extension of the Jeep brand.
Under Allen’s guidance, Jeep became known for incorporating playful “Easter Eggs” into their vehicles. Discreetly placed by the design team, these hidden surprises serve as a testament to the passion and craftsmanship behind each Jeep vehicle. The Easter Eggs are a way for Jeep to connect with its customers and show that its vehicles were created by individuals who genuinely care about the brand. Allen’s personal favorites include the “Ciao Baby!” spider on the Jeep Renegade and the “419” on the Jeep Gladiator, paying homage to the hardworking men and women at the Toledo Assembly Complex.
As Allen reflects on his 30-year journey, he takes pride in the Jeep brand’s growth, its model range’s expansion, and its global success. He cherishes the opportunity to work on these vehicles, pouring his heart and soul into their design and witnessing the joy they bring to people. Allen expresses his excitement for the future of the Jeep brand, eagerly anticipating the introduction of the Jeep Recon (EJ) electric vehicle (EV).
“Mark has left his mark not only on the Jeep brand but his influence on the designers who have enjoyed working with him. They will never forget his coaching style, whether it’s negotiating with engineering or sweating the details on every millimeter of our beloved Jeep vehicles,” said Chief Design Officer, Ralph Gilles.
As Allen bids farewell to his role at Jeep, he and his wife, Andrea, plan to embark on a travel period and spend quality time with family and friends. The couple is also seeking a new place to call home, with the Continental Divide serving as a guiding line for their explorations.