Shifting Through Gears with the 200's ZF 9-Speed Transmission is a Trip
The 2nd Generation Chrysler 200 has a 9-speed transmission that suffers from hard shifts, lurching problems, and a wiring harness defect that can cause suddenly shutdowns or unexpected shifting into neutral.
Somedays it felt impossible to get through the first 3 gears without constant hesitations and lurching. Other days -- particularly those days where the vehicle was being brought in for service -- it was smooth as silk.
The transmission sturuggles getting into 1st gear when trying to accelerate from a dead stop. Owners say it can take a full second from the moment they step on the gas to when the car actually starts moving.
One second doesn't sound like much, but it can feel like an eternity in traffic.
2nd gear isn't much better. Despite having 9 speeds to choose from, owners report that the ZF transmission hangs out in 2nd gear way too long.
And while you're pleading for the transmission to shift into 3rd gear, be careful what you wish for. The change from 2nd to 3rd can be über-agressive and is typically when owners report lurching complaints.
"The problem is caused by a terminal crimping issue with 26-way connectors on the sensor cluster harness assemblies. The company says the star-shaped connector was not properly crimped and the problem wasn't caught at the factory because of a manual setting used for measurements."
ZF said the recall affects the 9HP48 or 948TE transmissions, which FCA says can be found in certain 2014 Cherokees, and the 2015 Cherokee and Renegade.
Other FCA brands affected include the 2015 Chrysler 200 and the 2015 Ram ProMaster City.
Following the onslaught of complaints, FCA released a series of transmission-related technical service bulletins TSBs to its dealers. TSBs are instructions on how to handle problems that a customer is likely to have.
One thing from the TSBs was clear: FCA thought the transmission problems could be solved through a series of software updates.
Owners said they only offered "marginal" improvements and, fed up, the first lawsuit was filed against FCA in August of 2015. The lawsuit was for Jeep Cherokee owners only.
Another lawsuit was filed and the two eventually merged into one class-action.
FCA makes settlement offer with an extended warranty ∞
Rather than letting the newly merged class-action go to court, FCA agreed to a settlement offer that included an extended warranty for all consumers who purchased or leased a new 2014-2015 Jeep Cherokee, 2015 Jeep Renegade, 2015 Chrysler 200 or 2015 ProMaster City.
Additionally, owners were eligible for cash compensation or trade-in vouchers if they can prove they’ve made official complaints.
To have a chance of receiving cash or a voucher, the customer must be able to prove they made three (3) transmission-related complaints to authorized dealerships on or before November 16, 2018 ... The amount of compensation you can receive is based on how many transmission-related complaints you made, and can prove you made, to Chrysler dealers.
Despite the software updates and settlement offers, the transmission problems raged on.
On August 31, 2016 FCA issued TSB #21-013-16 titled 9 Speed Transmission Quick Learn Procedure. The bulletin discusses what a dealership should do if customers indicate that their transmission shift quality may be erratic.
In September 2018, a 2016 Cherokee owner sued FCA saying what good are those bulletins if the automaker refuses to do anything about it?
The plaintiff says she has taken the Cherokee back to the dealer about eight times and complained about the transmission problems and how they cause safety hazards while driving, but FCA and its dealers allegedly deny there are any problems.