Jeep Updates Nine-Speed Software after Customer Complaints

Feb 02, 2015 11:27 AM EST | Jordan Ecarma

Software problems continue to plague Jeep's nine-speed automatic transmission, consumers complaining of difficulty shifting, unexpected disengaging and other issues.

Fiat Chrysler plans to notify affected owners in mid- to late February that they should take their 2014-'15 Cherokees and 2015 Chrysler 200s to the dealership for updated transmission software, Automotive News reported. The fix is available at Jeep dealerships now at request by consumers who own Cherokees and 200s equipped with 2.4-liter engines.

Owners have been reporting issues ranging from hard shifts to warning lights that keep illuminating on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.

FCA seems to be learning from its errors with the 2014 Cherokee's problematic transmission, which dealers have been replacing in vehicles at the rate of 12-15 per week.

"We have had to do an inordinate amount of intervention on that transmission, surely beyond what any of us had forecast," said CEO Sergio Marchionne, as quoted by Automotive News. "There are things that we have done--that we continue to do. Our proactive customer care intervention has actually increased in intensity on these vehicles in 2014, especially in the second half."

The nine-speed transmission's problems have been with software, not design or mechanics, Marchionne said.

In some of the worst cases, faulty transmission software has caused disengagement in heavy traffic, forcing the driver to coast to the side of the road.

The nine-speed designed for front-wheel-drive vehicles was introduced by Fiat Chrysler in late 2013 as part of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee's drivetrain.

Of the 230 customer complaints about the vehicle in NHTSA's database, 120 were reported in connection with the powertrain; Marchionne has said the transmission failed to have "mature" software when Fiat Chrysler launched it.

Powertrain problems have not been connected with any accidents, injuries or fatalities, and NHTSA officials have not launched a formal investigation into the issue.

The 2015 Jeep Cherokee and the 2015 Chrysler 200 are both equipped with the nine-speed automatic, but customers have not posted complaints about the transmission on either vehicle. Going forward, FCA plans to put the nine-speed in the 2015 Renegade and 500X, among other four-wheel-drive models.

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