ZF, FCA Recalls Nine-Speed Transmission

There are few automotive components as widely vilified these days as the nine-speed automatic transmissions being offered in several Fiat Chrysler models. Car critics and consumers alike have slammed what once seemed like a breakthrough gearbox for a litany of troubles since it debuted in the Jeep Cherokee in May 2014.

Manufactured by Germany’s ZF, FCA is recalling the nine-speed gearbox for having a tendency to inadvertently shift into neutral. Perhaps highlighting the obvious, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s recall notice says that, “If the vehicle unexpectedly shifts into neutral, there is an increased risk of a crash.”

The nine-speed has been problematic since day one, with the Cherokee’s introduction being delayed a few months while engineers re-calibrated the transmission, which has been already been related to two lesser recalls involving the Chrysler 200. In this case the scapegoat is cited as being, “insufficient crimps in the transmission wire harness,” with the fix being, curiously, not a mechanical one but a software update.

Recall notices will be sent to around a half million owners of 2014-2015 Jeep Cherokee and 2015 Chrysler 200, Jeep Renegade and RAM ProMaster vehicles equipped with the affected gearbox. The nine-speed is also used in the 2016 Fiat 500X; 2014–2017 Range Rover Evoque and 2015–2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport, 2015–2016 Honda Pilot, and 2015–2017 Acura TLX, though those models are not – at least not yet – involved in the campaign.

 According to Car & Driver, around 4,000 warranty claims regarding the naughty nine-speed were filed with FCA over the first half of 2016, while 895 owners registered complaints to NHTSA regarding the transmission for unexpected shifts into neutral as well as other performance issues including acceleration surges, rough shifts, and the aforementioned hesitation to downshift. – Forbes


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