By on November 21, 2017

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited - Image: Chrysler

Back in June, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles faced a problem with its Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. One so significant, in fact, that it briefly stopped production of the vehicle. After recalling all models sold to date to replace faulty inverter diodes, production resumed, ending the problem of hybrid minivans suddenly going dark while underway.

The Pacifica Hybrid’s electrical gremlin appears slayed, but there’s no such luck with the gasoline-only version. Public safety advocates are raising their collective voice following multiple complaints of 2017 Pacificas behaving as if possessed while on the road.

As of this writing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has logged 105 complaints about the model, many stemming from unexplained shutdowns that took drivers by surprise (and left their vehicles in traffic, dead in the water).

Each account varies, but most involve claims of the vehicle’s engine shutting off and the gauges and touchscreen going dark. The circumstances are equally varied — drivers report the shutdown occurring at low speeds, while braking, while stopped, and while cruising at highway speeds. The driver is then unable to accelerate, with power steering and brake functions compromised. In some cases, the instrument cluster displays a message urging the driver to shift into park and press the ignition button (which sometimes remedies the situation), which requires the driver to first come to a complete stop. In one case, a 12-day-old vehicle with 400 miles on the odometer required towing to a dealer’s service bay. Others affected vehicles show lower mileage.

Some of the complaints involve a sensation of the transmission slipping out of gear, hampering acceleration, with the gearbox then re-engaging with a lurch.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited - Image: FCA

Not surprisingly, the Center for Auto Safety is now urging the NHTSA to open an investigation “to determine that this dangerous defect requires a recall by Chrysler.” The safety group’s media release highlights the family nature of the Pacifica, perhaps to an excessive degree (most vehicles are family vehicles). At this moment, it seems FCA has not yet identified a cause.

“Chrysler claims it has not identified the source of the failure and instead of removing the vehicles from the nation’s highways this holiday season, it has asked owners to continue driving the defective vehicles,” the group stated. One owner tracked down by the Center for Auto Safety is Adam Cohen, who claims his 2017 Pacifica shut down twice while on the road. He states that while FCA has not yet discovered the source of the problem, the automaker would not provide him with a loaner vehicle.

The automaker “has instead asked my family to continue driving the car with a data recorder
attached to help Chrysler figure it out,” he said, adding that the idea of serving as a “guinea pig” was not a pleasing one. Cohen is a co-signer of the group’s petition to the NHTSA.

Of course, automakers do not order recalls (nor does the NHTSA) until the issue — like the Pacifica Hybrid’s — is discovered, and a remedy agreed upon. The NHTSA has not announced an investigation at this time. Usually, the agency lets the automaker investigate, stepping in if necessary.

Still, safety advocates aren’t waiting around for FCA to pinpoint the cause. “Just as it is not necessary for Chrysler to identify the exact cause of the defect before it provides its owners loaner vehicles for their safety, NHTSA should not wait for a body count to exercise its authority under the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Act to ensure consumer safety,” the group said.

For its part, the automaker claims the issue is being examined, and complaints read. In its correspondence with The New York Times, FCA said it has not found information that points to the specific problem. Eric Mayne, FCA spokesman in charge of engineering, safety and regulatory affairs, stated that the minivan’s airbags and seatbelt tensioners are not compromised by an engine shutoff

The company “is unaware of any injuries or accidents associated with these complaints,” he added.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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29 Comments on “Complaints Over Stalling Chrysler Pacificas Flood NHTSA...”

  • avatar

    Tony should be replaced by Mario and Luigi.

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    “In some cases, the instrument cluster displays a message urging the driver to shift into park and press the ignition button (which sometimes remedies the situation)”

    1. Shouldn’t it be possible to shift into neutral and restart the engine while still rolling (and then put the vehicle back into gear and continue on your way)?

    2. If the vehicle goes dark how is it possible for the instrument cluster to display anything?

    3. Modern drivers are way too spoiled. I realize that these are brand new vehicles with EFI, etc. but back in the day it was not at all unusual for vehicles to stall out for one reason or another – sometimes the carb would become fuel starved as you made a turn or whatever. You’d restart the car and go on your merry way – it was not the end of the world or something calling for Federal action.

    • 0 avatar

      #2 can be explained by the phrase “in some cases” in your quote.

    • 0 avatar

      To your third point, I would only hope some agency, whether private or public, would compel the manufacturer to fix the issue without any expense to the vehicle’s owner.

    • 0 avatar

      “back in the day” – that is the whole point here! These are NEW vehicles, this should NOT be happening. Given the fact that many drivers have NEVER driven a vehicle that doesn’t have power steering and power assisted brakes losing power while on the road could become very dangerous.

      Those of us that grew up with manual transmissions fully understand how to fix this problem – put in the clutch and turn the key. Well you try that in a modern automatic with push button start… the computer ain’t letting it happen. I bet you can’t even shift into neutral if the vehicle dies as everything is controlled by the electronics. So a full stop is required. For example my wife’s car has push button start and upon entering the car the dash displays “push brake to start”. I believe for towing purposes there is a hidden park release to access neutral.

      • 0 avatar

        My ’15 Ford Fiesta a manual trans and has a particularly unsafe feature. In order to restart the car you have to turn the key all the way to “lock”… so if you are doing it on a roll, for a moment the steering wheel would be locked.

  • avatar
    The ultimate family-friendly hybrid vehicle is finally here.

    If FCA ever plans to sell self-driving vehicles without driver controls, they had better get a handle on this problem immediately. Analog is still preferable to digital, at least for my vehicular preferences.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Toyota knows how to keep the throttle open.

  • avatar

    I wonder if people are twisting the shifter knob instead of the radio knob while driving, and the engine is going into shutdown mode to prevent expensive internal damage. The knobs are about an inch apart. I don’t know if they’re that close in any other vehicles. Presumably this would generate some kind of code, though, and Chrysler can’t seem to figure out why it is happening.

  • avatar

    With all due respect to the Center for Auto Safety, I’m thinking that finding the exact cause of the problem is the one thing that FCA absolutely SHOULD do before loaning any vehicles to anyone. If the loaner is another Pacifica, what if it has the same problem? The only way a loaner would work is if it’s a different vehicle, and I don’t know if FCA does that.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    -Deep Sigh- MOPAR used to stand for outstanding engines. Thunder-spitting torque beasts or Slant 6/K-Car engines that were tough as anvils. FCA must, a lawyer can explain much better and more authoritatively, discover and fix this defect. Also, loaner vehicles for Pacifca;s ID’ with this defect. Mom and kids hit in high-speed crash because their minivan died. Film at 11, lawyers getting another vacation home.

  • avatar

    Just six or seven years ago, various FCA cars just quit when you were driving along. The Journey seemed particularly affected and was the subject of a half hour TV show in Canada. Nobody knew what killed ’em until some bright spark worked out that a giant power transistor module was overheating and crapping out. “The car has a defective totally integrated power module (TIPM). … Most likely a Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge. … it’s the 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan that was most recently seen near the top of the current problem trends.”

    History repeats itself as FCA sources dud TIPM modules for new Pacificas from old cardboard boxes discovered in a warehouse about to be torn down. Or something like that.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the TIPM is what died in a family member’s Routan. I saw that Marketplace episode about the Journey, didn’t realize it was the same thing.

      I’m glad to see that FCA is still turning out quality vehicles in 2017. /s

    • 0 avatar

      Friends don’t recommend that friends buy Chrysler vehicles. Not even if the road testers like ’em.

      With this level of managerial ability, everyone there better start taking lessons in Mandarin right quick.

  • avatar
    Jerome Coe

    My 2011 300c as alternator recalled . The alternator started smoking when i tried to give it a jump. Waiting on recall car been parked for 4 months chysler should own up before people get hurt or killed

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Ironic post considering that the next blog entry is an ad for the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid.

  • avatar

    My daughter had a 2015 Jeep Patriot 2.0L with a very similar problem. It would not accelerate when pulling away from a stop and the dashboard lights would all come on like a Christmas tree. The engine would be running but the steering wheel would lock up and the brakes had no power assist. It always seemed to do this when you were turning at an intersection leaving you stranded for other cars to potentially hit you. It was very dangerous. It usually took multiple attempts of shutting the car off and trying to restart. Eventually it would and it would act like nothing happened. She has since gotten rid of the vehicle with FCAs help.

  • avatar

    I had a rental Pacifica that stalled several times as well as refused to start. I told the nice man at Avis when I returned it, he shook his head and said that the Pacificas had been full of trouble. He wrote several notes on the windshield in marker and someone came and pulled it off to the side. Not sure what they were going to do at that point, but I assumed that was a terrible sign. A shame because it otherwise *felt* like a solid vehicle.

  • avatar

    My only recent FCA experience was when I went to Northern Canada in January and rented a 4×4 at the airport. It turned out to be a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It was -38C outside and the thing barely started, it was cranking so slowly I was actually surprised it did start.

    I started sweeping the snow off it and let it warm up a bit while I scraped the windows. When I got in to drive away the warning light on the dash was on that said “Trans Overtemp” I don’t think so! Tried to drive it and it was in limp home mode and wouldn’t go over 25 mph. Turned around and the only other 4×4 Avis had was a Chevy 3/4 ton diesel pickup. That was equally frozen and not plugged in.

    I got in, turned the key and let the glow plugs warm up and then with some trepidation turned the key to crank. To my amazement it cranked like I would expect on a warm day and fired right up. I never thought a diesel would start better than a gas engine at those temperatures.

    Only problem was it took about an hour of driving to get the temp gauge to come off the bottom and to get some heat in the heater. Scraping the inside of the windshield where my breath has frozen and fogged up the inside is no fun. Diesels really need a winter front and this truck didn’t have one.

  • avatar

    It looks as if the Pacifica is another flop for Chrysler. Sergio is steering Chrysler directly into the iceberg.

    The V6 200 was the only Chrysler I would consider buying, and that was cancelled.

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