I don’t think it’s a shock to anyone who knows me that I’m not a huge fan of Chrysler vehicles. I once owned a ’93 Dodge Daytona which had its own unique problems, such as peeling paint and rust on the roof, engine issues, and a bit more. But mistakes happen, clear coats are sometimes forgotten, and in time most vehicles have issues.
But my most recent issue with Chrysler isn’t one of a vehicle’s ungraceful aging, but rather a disturbing practice which hopeful doesn’t become a trend.
In mid 2015 my fantastic girlfriend entered a lease for a brand new Jeep Renegade, or perhaps we should just call it the Fiat 500L Jeep Edition. It’s the first ‘domestic’ brand vehicle built on this Fiat chassis, and it has so much Jeep branding inside and out that you begin to question who the engineers are trying to convince that this vehicle is a true jeep. Actually, it’s built in Italy, but I’m getting off topic here.
To put a long story short, this vehicle has been nothing but trouble on the road until just recently. The Jeep Renegade features the ZF 9HP transmission, which to me seems like it’s about 3 gears too many – perhaps that’s because for the first year we’ve had this vehicle it couldn’t seem to figure out how to shift from 1st to second. The jerky shifting and intermittent loss of power to the driveshaft reminds me of a teenager learning how to drive a stick.
But this is the twenty-first century, we’re not limited to mere physical issues, we have… upgrades.
Whoa. I know gear-shift-fu.
After taking our vehicle in several times for this transmission issue, we’ve had it flashed with new software, cleared and reset, and most recently flashed with yet another patch at the dealership. And huzzah! It seems like after 5 service appointments, 3 software resets, and two ‘upgrades’ the issue is finally fixed. Well… mostly fixed. I ran into an issue where I lost all acceleration power while taking a turn for about 2 seconds, but hey, it’s shifting better, right?
Even with these issues though, the faulty shifting isn’t the main issue I have with Chrysler this time around. Hell, these continuing problems were almost expected. What really has me agitated, however, is what came with the last upgrade.
Jeep added a new feature – automatic parking brake engagement.
Any time the fully upgraded and patched 2015 Jeep Renegade shifts into park, the electronic parking brake engages. Every time. You have no choice. It’s okay though, any time you press the break followed by the gas, the parking brake disengages automatically, and since you have to press the brake to shift out anyway, so what’s the harm? Oh wait… it’s a Chrysler, should I even be surprised that this only automatically releases about 60% of the time?
Here’s where I start taking issue. At least one car manufacturer is now issuing upgrades that change the basic functionality of the vehicle, and there’s nothing that I as the driver – or am I a user at this point – can do to disable this ‘feature’. I don’t like this. My girlfriend doesn’t like this, and I can assure you that she would have never leased this vehicle has this ‘feature’ existed in the first place.
Potentially dangerous faulty shifting should be reason enough to return a vehicle, but now you’re telling me that you can change the core of how my vehicle works through a software upgrade I have no control of? Whose vehicle is this anyway?
It’s unfortunate that Chrysler doesn’t have the defective product return policies or guarantees of online retailers and computer manufacturers, because all we want to do is get rid of this defective Ill-conceived bastard child of Fiat before the next software update changes something else, or worse, before we get into an accident because the transmission decided to disengage.