By on September 27, 2013

The Chrysler Toledo Assembly Complex used to produce Jeep Cherokee in Toledo

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.

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43 Comments on “Chrysler Restarts Second Shift At Toledo, Says It Has New Cherokee’s Drivetrain Software Patched...”


  • avatar
    tkewley

    The relevant question, it seems to me, is “how/why did Chrysler allow an apparently significant issue to go unsolved until VERY late in the new vehicle development/launch process?”.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      you ask, as though they somehow sat on it until the last minute. Calibrations can take a long time to get validated and if they’re not ready by the targeted milestone(s,) they’re not ready.

      Product dev cycles are just about as long as they were a decade ago, but there’s a million times more work to be done on modern cars.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    You know, with a dark paint the “row of urinals” tends to dominate the front view and draw attention away from the snake eyes. Not bad.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’m no 4×4 enthusiast, but why do modern systems use computers as opposed to a few hydralic systems and some mechanical work?

    Come to think of it, will Chryslers 9-speed (good grief) transmission actually be any good off-road or will it shift updown every second trying to grip the terrain?

    If theres one thing I’ve learned from computers its that they’re very useful but bug-prone and require updates fairly often, I wouldn’t want to be going 80 on the highway just to have my car decide “I need an update! Time to go into limp mode!”.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      (sarcasm on)@Ryoku75, OMG why computers? Because you don’t want Car & Driver and Motor Trend saying how antiquated your vehicles are! If you don’t have 100 speed transmissions and more computers than the Google complex your car must have been designed by troglodytes during the B.C. (before Clarkson) timeline! (sarcasm off)

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Henceforth every car must drive like a BMW, look like an Audi, and have a 0-60 of 5 seconds minimum.

        At 28: I still have a 95 somewhere chugging along practically virus free, never needed a memory wipe either. Slow computer, but solid, good memories.

        What gets me is how these updates are required so often, I’ve asked it once and I’ll ask again, why can’t we get anything right on the second try anymore?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I am a hardware geek but I said goodbye to that generation of hardware so long ago its tough to remember it. Incidentally there were multiple versions of Win95 I wonder which one you’re running so well without issue?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_95

          I’m with you on the updates, do it right the first time and you won’t need endless patches.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Standard probably, I don’t use it so much anymore but as a kid I played the heck out of that sucker.

            But with the updates this goes for general car production and video games, recalls are inevitable but companies could curb them if they didn’t use so many resources on market research and such.

        • 0 avatar
          jz78817

          Software is getting so big and complicated and everything so interconnected that it’s likely impossible to write bug-free code anymore. Talking about industrial control systems is meaningless; they use tiny microcontrollers with a few kB of code.

          If you want a 400 hp engine that idles smooth as silk and puts out exhaust which is as clean as the air it took in, you’re going to need a lot of code in order to make that happen.

          and in the case of the Cherokee, the powertrain management deals with so many varying inputs and outputs (many of them analog and not always predictable based on the loose nut in the driver’s seat) that this could have been an obscure bug that was found just as they were about to approve OK to ship.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “If theres one thing I’ve learned from computers its that they’re very useful but bug-prone and require updates fairly often”

      That’s the world of computing post Windows 95, prior to this it was possible to have relatively solid software but the costs were much higher to produce it. Think of all the industrial systems designed prior to 1995 when “updates” were impractical if not nearly impossible in some cases. While Microsoft for years sent out CD binders every quarter, I’d argue the proliferation of the internet gave rise to the constant update culture we now live in.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      Damn good question. My old Wrangler is 100% mechanical (and controlled by my hand and foot) . The electronic fluff is unneeded garbage

      • 0 avatar
        Kinosh

        The electronic fluff has, as a direct result of its implementation, the following benefits:

        Increased comfort, lowered emissions, increased FE, higher safety ratings, and increased durability.

        The electronics are “fluff” to the same extent that a driver’s seat is. Sure, its technically possible to build a car without both, but why would you?

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          Amen to this. Vehicles are much more reliable, achieve higher performance, get better fuel economy, have far more safety features, and lower emissions because of computers.

          Software upgrades allow these systems to work better than they did when originally built. This is a feature, not a bug.

          We are not going back to the days of manual chokes, smoke belching engines, and non existent safety systems.

          Computers have made this the golden age of automobiles: never before have you been able to buy vehicles that have so much performance, efficiency, reliability, or safety at mass market prices. Enjoy it while it lasts.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Way to set Pragmatist up as a straw-man, never did they say that we should all out eliminate computers altogether.

            I think that what we need is balance and refinement with computers, not hap-hazardly assigning every duty of a car to a computer and hoping that none of it bugs out.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            +1

            I’ll take electronic fuel injection over a carburetor anyday, and I grew up on carburetors and am quite adept at repairing them.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Whatever the cause of the problems, I’m impressed that Chrysler is spending the amount of time they have to get it right before putting them on lots. Maybe other companies will follow their lead and hopefully Chrysler will continue to do the same no matter what model it is.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      I doubt Chrysler had much choice. Ever since the Ultradrive A604 debacle, Chrysler’s poor reputation with new automatic transmissions has been hard to shake. There are lots of consumers that won’t touch another Chrysler product because of past automatic transmission problems.

      Releasing a half-baked Cherokee with a problematic transmission could have went a long way to taking Fiatsler down. Even now, once word becomes widespread that there ‘might’ be an issue with the Cherokee’s transmission, it will scare off many potential buyers (although not as many if they had released a vehicle with known shifting issues). I certainly would think twice about a Chrysler with a complicated 9-speed auto.

      It’s a far cry from the bulletproof days of the Torqueflite, which had been considered the standard of the industry.

  • avatar
    Sceptic

    Car releases are becoming almost like beta software testing.
    Why would anybody pay good money(most likely full MSRP) for this first batch of cars with(and I quote):

    1) patches to the engine and transmission mapping software
    2) highly technical nine-speed transmission
    3) two new engines
    4) three complex 4×4 systems

    Complexity is not good. Looks like a disaster is in the making.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Maybe if they focused on just the engines and one 4×4 system Chrysler could better hone their talents over scatter-shotting it, that and not be afraid to build on existing technology rather than needlessly re-developing the Cherokee from scratch.

      Couldn’t they take the Wrangler Unlimited and just add a wider body on it and a better engine? Yea the mpg is 21 according to the website, but its an SUV, not a Corolla.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        The more than one 4×4 system confused me too. You’re JEEP. Build the best damn 4×4 system you can and use it on everything you sell that’s 4×4. Offer the option of locking differentials but make them mechanical and simple.

      • 0 avatar
        jpolicke

        Yeah, this choice thing is overrated. And while we’re at it, why do we need so many different colors of paint? Do you know how much time is wasted changing nozzles?

        Dammit, Edsel, there’s nothing wrong with the Model T!

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Funny you should say that when I was just thinking about how limited our car color choices and interiors are compared to the older days.

          Either you can get metallic red, metallic blue, white, or the most popular option a tony of gray!

          • 0 avatar
            jpolicke

            TTAC had a story on this subject a while back; it seems like once you count white, black, silver and gray you’ve covered about 70% of the market. Blame our fellow consumers.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Exactly.

  • avatar
    readallover

    I don`t understand why they would stop producing the trucks in the first place. If it is a software problem, would you not just reflash them when you discover the fix?

    • 0 avatar
      Kinosh

      There’s only so much space in the logistics chain for vehicles that aren’t moving. You will literally run out of asphalt, trucks, and train cars in which to hide cars you’re not moving.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Well, they DID say they have 12,000 of ‘em waiting for upgrades. If it weren’t football season, a single stadium lot should hold them all. OTOH, the traditional storage is dealer lots, with dealers selling them and then scheduling the upgrades in a recall and having dealers’ grease monkeys do the upgrades. The emphasis on PR is killing tradition!

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Ahhh… makes one pine for the days of yearly tune-ups. Re-gapping plugs, adjusting dwell, etc.

    NO WAY!

    I love computerized cars, for they have never been more reliable and economical. Besides, I don’t work on them anymore, and I’m happy about that! I just keep them cleaned and well-maintained.

    This gives me confidence in Chrysler I haven’t had since Iacocca’s reign. Seems they are trying to do it right. It’s one thing to function in a lab under controlled conditions, but beta-testing in the real world is a different animal.

    I wish them the best with this launch!


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