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Published: Tuesday, 5/27/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

Cherokee’s software updated

Chrysler works out ‘quirks’ in vehicle’s automatic transmission

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The line of fully assembled Jeep Cherokees. The line of fully assembled Jeep Cherokees.
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Chrysler Group LLC is still tinkering with the software that controls the Jeep Cherokee’s high-tech automatic transmission, seven months after the vehicle first went on the market.

The automaker sent dealers a service bulletin earlier this month, directing them to perform a software update on any unsold Cherokees on their lot. Chrysler also told its dealers to update the software on any vehicles whose owners complain of poor throttle response or shift feel.

Chrysler struggled to get the transmission control software properly calibrated for the Cherokee last year, delaying the vehicle’s launch for more than a month.

The vehicle started arriving in dealerships in late October, and it has sold well since then. Through the end of April, Chrysler had sold more than 51,000 Cherokees in the United States this year, making it the Jeep brand’s second best seller behind the Grand Cherokee.

The company didn’t say Tuesday if it had received complaints about the transmission from Cherokee buyers. A service manager at one area dealership said they haven’t received any complaints from buyers about trouble with their Cherokee’s transmission.

The bulletin applies to vehicles built before May 5.

Chrysler no longer releases month-by-month production data, but the company said last year it built 73,000 Cherokees at its plant in Toledo, and officials have said the plant is able to build about 1,000 Cherokees a day.

In a statement to The Blade, a company spokesman said the service bulletin is “part of our ongoing efforts to respond to customer feedback and improve satisfaction.”

Chrysler said the software updates would “enhance responsiveness and shifting smoothness.”

For most vehicles, the software update takes about 15 minutes. However, the service bulletin did say some vehicles may require a drive of up to an hour.

Kevin Riddell, a powertrain analyst at LMC Automotive Ltd. in Detroit, said he was chalking the recent software update up to a long learning curve with the new transmission.

“I’m sure they’ve tested these things to no end while developing it and bringing it to market, but there’s still quirks drivers are going to see,” he said.

The nine-speed transmission was designed by German auto supplier ZF Friedrichshafen AG, and is built by Chrysler. The Cherokee was the company’s first product to be equipped with the new transmission, though the gearbox is expected to play a big role in the coming years.

The transmission is due out next in the new Chrysler 200.

By 2018, the company expects more than half of the vehicles it sells in North America to use the transmission, and continues to invest in production capacity.

A little more than two weeks ago, Chrysler Group dedicated a revamped plant near Kokomo, Ind., that will be able to build 800,000 nine-speeds annually. Chrysler spent $162 million on the project. Chrysler has also invested in its Perrysburg Township machining plant to build parts that support the transmission.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134 or on Twitter @BladeAutoWriter.



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