With over 8 million vehicles being recalled for various problems just over the last year, and even more, massive lawsuits awaiting it, the Fiat Chrysler brand has taken quite a hit concerning its reputation and reliability. With all its decades of experience, one would think the company’s problems could be resolved quickly, but so far that’s not the case.
With its upcoming $50 billion merger with Groupe PSA, the combined company will become the fourth-largest automaker in the world. Will that fix Fiat’s quality problems? Owners of Fiat Chrysler vehicles, for better or worse, seem to share the same common problems. Why that is, only FCA knows for sure, but the general consensus is that it sucks.
From fit and finish issues to electrical problems and worse, these common problems persist across the board for nearly all Fiat Chrysler vehicles. It’s a shame that the consumer will pay the ultimate price for all of these problems.
Fiat Chrysler and corrosion seem to go hand in hand. It seems no part of its vehicles are safe from being recalled. As recently as 2018 saw nearly 240,000 models of the Jeep Liberty recalled because of corrosion problems with their lower control arms (below). Another recall in 2018 focused on some Jeep Wranglers that were experiencing premature corrosion.
Fiat Chrysler probably curses the day it ever installed the ZF 9HP nine-speed transmission in any of its vehicles. First installed in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, the transmission quickly gained a reputation for being what it was - crap. The ZF transmissions in question were apparently built in ZF’s Chinese facility.
In just one year Chrysler had to issue three technical service bulletins and at least two software updates for the transmission, says a Car and Driver report. By 2015 Fiat Chrysler was subjected to a class-action lawsuit in the USA from several people suffering the problem.
Finally, in 2016, Chrysler recalled over 400,000 vehicles unfortunate enough to have the ZF 9HP transmission, citing loss of propulsion.
From 2018-2019, Fiat Chrysler has recalled more than 8.3 million vehicles due to a rash of persistent problems. Naturally, this reflects in consumer ranking lists from JD Power and Consumer Reports, in which Fiat Chrysler normally finds its vehicles nestled comfortably at the bottom of the results year after miserable year.
The Society of Automotive Engineers editorial director Bill Visnic sums Fiat Chrysler's perception perfectly when he mentions in a Detroit Free Press article, “I don’t think the quality has ever been… one of the things people would look at as one of Chrysler’s talking points.”
One complete batch of Chrysler 200s (1500 cars) was recalled to re-insert a switch panel correctly
Every vehicle manufacturer loves to break records. Even Fiat Chrysler manages to break them every once in a while. Unfortunately, not for the right reasons. In 2015 Fiat Chrysler broke a record by being fined a record $105 million for safety issues and violations.
According to the New York Times, the car company was fined that much because it failed to complete 23 safety recalls involving more than 11 million of its vehicles. Fiat Chrysler was also forced under court order to buy back something like 500,000 of its own vehicles, which were experiencing problems with defective suspensions.
In 2018, the Euro NCAP, the equivalent of the NHTSA, thunderously slammed the Jeep Wrangler with a 1-Star rating, for lacking many active and passive safety systems that many other vehicles have.
FCA has been leading all US car makers with record numbers of recalls - it is the undoubted champion of recall mailouts.
In October of 2019, Fiat Chrysler began another recall, this time concerning nearly 108,000 Ram 1500 trucks. The issue is about the exhaust gas recirculation cooler cracking and allowing heated coolant to enter the inlet manifold. This could potentially start a fire in the intake manifold. Vehicles affected were from 2014-2019 Ram models.
In 2017 another 1.3 million vehicles were recalled for faulty alternators that posed a fire hazard. Also in 2019, Fiat Chrysler had to recall over 100,000 Ram Pro-Master van, saying that the engine cooling fans may seize up, leading to a risk of fire. Repairs will begin in 2020 once Fiat Chrysler finalizes a solution.
Nearly 900,000 Dodge Ram Trucks worldwide were recalled in February 2019, due to oversteering and braking problems. In May 2019 almost 200,000 Fiat Chrysler minivans were recalled over loose wiring, which may have resulted in the vehicle losing power steering capabilities.
Safety regulators also started an investigation of steering problems involving at least 270,000 Jeep Wranglers in September 2019. The NHTSA said that more than 3,500 Jeep owners have complained about the vehicle having shimmy and looseness issues, as well as steering wheel lockup.
In January of 2019, the company issued a recall involving 2019 pickup trucks that didn’t have properly installed battery fasteners, allowing batteries to come loose, causing loss of power steering.
Electrical faults affecting nearly 700,000 SUVs sparked yet another recall in late 2019. In 2016 Fiat Chrysler recalled 410,000 vehicles about a wiring problem, which produced faults making those affected vehicles lose power and go into “limp mode” according to a report from Fortune.
In 2016, Consumer Reports said Fiat Chrysler landed dead last in its rankings, with most of their models not even being ‘recommended’. That has to be a pretty devastating verdict for even one vehicle, much less an entire line-up.
It appears this isn’t an issue so far, but only time will tell after finalisation of the 'merger' of Groupe PSA and Fiat Chrysler.
In 2019 Peugeot was ranked number 1 most reliable car brand in the UK. It was reported that the company only had 77 problems out of 100 cars.
Groupe PSA Chairman, Carlos Tavares, sounds upbeat about the merger, but with all these issues on the public record, why no last minute panic?
Carlos Tavares (Groupe PSA) & Mike Manley (FCA)
It could be that Groupe PSA doesn’t care about issues with current FCA products, because under this ‘merger of equals’ most of the FCA models will eventually disappear and be replaced by PSA-designed vehicles.
I believe the ONLY thing Tavares and Groupe PSA wants from FCA are its existing U.S. dealer premises, so that it can re-enter the American market with very low setup costs.
As for the rusted-on Jeep and RAM owners (the only commercially successful divisions of FCA), I believe they face the loss of these iconic vehicles down the track, because Groupe PSA may deem that their inherent problems are not worth spending the money to fix.
No wonder the current head of FCA, Mike Manley, will be leaving the ‘merged’ group after the paperwork is completed, for other pastures at Jaguar Land Rover.
(The bulk of this article was sourced from US website www.hotcars.com, prepared by Archie Smith on January 27, 2020)
Edited by JOHN CRAWFORD