FCA recalls millions of transmissions for problems that keep popping up
FCA transmissions, once rock solid, now lots less reliable
What is it with Fiat Chrysler Autos (FCA) and its transmissions? Since 2015, FCA has recalled nearly 4 million vehicles – trucks, cars, SUVs – for transmission problems. In the last couple of weeks, in fact, FCA has recalled more than 2.3 million cars for tranny issues alone. Since 2016, the number of transmission calls back has been in the millions.
There’s no way around the FCA mess, sometimes
Now, if it were one or two trucks, cars or crossovers, or even 100 or 200, FCA might have solved the problem with what is known as a Service Bulletin Program. Each bulletin warns dealership service personnel that there are problems with some cars that have to be fixed when drivers bring their vehicles in for service. In other cases, there are “secret warranties” – yes, they exist – where repairs are made but, only if an owner asks.
However, when you have problems involving millions of vehicles, there’s no way around the P.R. mess and black eye the manufacturer receives from the callback. The last couple of weeks has been especially tough on FCA.
First, the automaker recalled 1.8 million RAM trucks because the trucks roll after drivers slip them into Park. It is the biggest current transmission recall and involves RAM trucks built from 2009 to 2017-17, equipped with column-mounted shifters. The problem is that the brake transmission interlock doesn’t work well at high temperatures. The temperatures cause the interlocks to wear allowing trucks to roll away. There have reportedly been seven injuries related to this problem and crashes, as well.
This week’s second recall began with a probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). An investigation is the agency’s first step in determining if there should be a recall. The probe goes back about four years when early reports of problems with the FCA nine-speed surfaced on Chrysler 200s. Owners reported the transmission surged and tended to slip into neutral whenever it wanted to. And, step-downs to speed up during passing and such were sluggish introducing, as one writer hinted, lots of drama into turns and passing.
Nine-speed transmission has its detractors
Suffice it to say, the tranny wasn’t well received. FCA couldn’t get a handle on the issue. There were two quick, but small early recalls to fix software issues that didn’t work. And the complaints, at least 4,000 in 2016, for instance, poured in. ZF of Germany built the nine-speed for FCA. FCA and several other automakers are using the transmission, including Honda, Rover, Fiat, and Acura.
FCA is no stranger to transmission problems and huge related recalls. For instance, the shift-by-wire, monostable automatic was huge news in 2016 when it claimed the life of a talented young actor. There were other reports of serious injuries and accidents, as well.
Though the automaker denied there was an issue with the transmission and claimed it was only a training issue, it still recalled 1.1 million vehicles. And it made changes to the control software. The automaker also added new gearshift routines and warning alarms.
The changes came too late for Anton Yelchin, 26, in 2016. An up-and-coming star and member of the rebooted “Star Trek” franchise, the young actor, had stopped his Jeep Grand Cherokee in his driveway and jumped out, assuming it was in Park. Unfortunately, the three-detent switch used was still in Reverse when he walked behind the SUV. The SUV rolled, pinning him between the vehicle and the mailbox.
Here’s the info section
For more information on these recalls, you can contact Chrysler Customer Service at 800-853-1403 or the NHTSA Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236. You can also visit the NHTSA safety website, http://www.safercar.gov