Transmission builder ZF Friedrichshafen AG is recalling about 505,000 vehicles in the U.S. which use its nine-speed automatic transmission.
In the affected cars, which come from numerous brands, the transmission can suddenly shift into neutral while driving due to a wiring harness with a faulty crimp attaching it to the sensor cluster. A high electrical resistance is the result of the bad crimp which causes the drops into neutral. A software flash will either prevent the transmission from shifting or warn the driver before the shift into neutral occurs.
The 2015 Chrysler 200, Ram ProMaster City, Jeep Renegade and Cherokee make up 324,000 units of the recall, while the rest are from Honda and Land Rover. Neither of those companies have specified which vehicles will be recalled yet, though we know that the Acura MDX, the Honda Pilot and the Land Rover Evoque all use the ZF-built nine-speed unit.
For now, FCA is only recalling 2015 model year vehicles, despite the fact that many of its 2016 and 2017 model year vehicles still use the same transmission. ZF did make a change to its crimping process in July of 2014, which could be the reason why the newer vehicles are not being brought back in.
A search of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website turns up hundreds of complaints regarding the transmission, with Car and Driver counting at least 895 separate owners complaining of not just random neutral drops, but also hesitation, rough shifts, acceleration surges and vehicles that roll away even after they are put in park. About 16 complaints have been levelled at the transmission in 2016 model year vehicles.
NHTSA says 10 injuries have been reported as a result of transmission issues.
“In this instance, ZF provided the necessary documentation to NHTSA to address a specific issue,” ZF spokesman Bryan Johnson told Car and Driver when asked about the other alleged transmission problems. “All other concerns and filings need to be addressed by our customers. It is ZF’s policy to refrain from speaking on their behalf.”
FCA is also currently dealing with another recall and lawsuits over a confusing shifter design which resulted in rollaways. The case gained the spotlight when famous actor Anton Yelchin was killed when his Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled away and crushed him.