Chrysler announced Thursday that it will restart the second shift of workers assembling the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee at the Toledo Assembly Complex next Monday after a week of downtime spent upgrading the software for the SUV’s powertrain. Chrysler had idled the 500 workers, it said, because it had built a sufficient number of vehicles to launch and that it didn’t want to overwhelm delivery logistics, but it was clear from the fact that none of the built Cherokees were being shipped and that some of the idled workers were conducting lengthy test drives that quality control was a factor in the shutdown. Chrysler software and drivetrain engineers have been working on patches to the engine and transmission mapping software and the company says that it has made progress on the upgrade.
“As we continue to refine the vehicle’s powertrain software, we are implementing a plan that will allow us to make the required updates more quickly than anticipated, thereby making additional layoffs unnecessary at this time,” Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in a statement.
Chrysler has been holding back over 12,000 finished Cherokees before shipping them to dealers. That’s more than $300 million worth of Jeeps at retail prices.
Automotive News had reported that the software at issue regulates how the ZF designed and Chrysler built nine-speed automatic transmission interacts with the Cherokee’s innovative free-wheeling driveshaft and rear differential which is supposed to save fuel. Chrysler confirmed the issue in its statement on Thursday.
“This is the world’s first application of a highly technical nine-speed transmission; on top of that, it is being mated to two new engines and three complex 4×4 systems. As our senior management has stated many times before, we will only introduce a vehicle to consumers when we are completely satisfied,” the statement said.
The engines are Chrysler designs, the transmission was licensed from ZF and the trick disconnecting driveshaft is made by American Axle, and Chrysler had to develop software to integrate the components and control shifting patterns and four-wheel drive implementation for each of the drivetrain combinations.