“Effective people are not problem-minded; they’re opportunity-minded.” – Stephen Covey
“Unlike the other guy, we’ll catch this stuff before the government gets involved.”
More often than not, automakers issue recalls with a metaphorical gun pointed at them. Once the NHTSA gets wind of a problem and investigates, it can compel the OEM into issuing a recall. Not every recall happens like that, though; some are voluntary, done without any prior government investigation. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) issued two voluntary recalls within the last two days, a solid PR move that avoids the spectacle of a government mandate.
The first recall is for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. Over 25,000 vehicles are affected, from both the 2012 and 2013 model years. The cars are spread across several markets, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, and a smattering of overseas countries.
The last thing you need during a panic brake is a strange feeling in the pedal.
The issue stems from a problem inside the Ready Alert Braking system, which helps assist the driver during emergency braking maneuvers. The system reacts by applying brake pressure when its computer notices a quick throttle release. One component in the system restricted the flow of brake fluid a little too much when the system was priming the brakes, leading to a weird pedal feeling, or as FCA’s press release puts it, a pedal feeling that “was not consistent with customer expectations.”
There have been no official problems, injuries, or accidents related to this complaint; instead, the recall is solely to remedy the pedal feeling. On a positive note, it’s a quick and easy fix, requiring a reflash of the car’s ECU.
The second recall is for the Fiat 500L five-passenger people-hauler. Approximately 19,000 vehicles are subject to this recall, centering around MY2014 models equipped with the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. One fifth of affected vehicles are still on the dealership floor, but the remainder are on the road in both the U.S. and Canada.
Apparently, a part of a microcontroller in the transmission doesn’t work so well in extreme temperatures, just like the ones we’ve been experiencing across the country over the last few weeks. When that part malfunctions, customers have reported issues getting the Fiat out of park. Some owners have also had problems with manually changing gears.
Reflashing the ECU is as easy as hooking a cable up to the car’s access port.
Just as with the Jeep/Dodge recall, there have been no injuries or fatalities linked to this problem, and the recall is wholly voluntary on FCA’s part. The fix is also the same, requiring nothing more than a simple ECU reflash, which shouldn’t take more than an hour at any dealership. However, 200 or so of the recalled vehicles may require a module replacement, which could take a little while longer.
Truly, this is an excellent PR move for FCA. There were concerns after the Fiat-Chrysler merger, but issuing two voluntary recalls shows that a new company name doesn’t mean that they’re forgetting about the customer.
Furthermore, FCA’s two voluntary recalls come at a very opportune moment. Another automaker is currently catching a whole war’s worth of flak over a bungled recall. That makes this the best possible time for a competitor to come out with voluntary recall, as if to say, “Unlike the other guy, we’ll catch this stuff before the government gets involved.” If there’s any way to win a few brand converts, this is it.
After all, it’s not like recalls in general should fully sour a person’s opinion of an automaker. In a world that places a strong focus on bean-counting, cars will undoubtedly run into a small issue or two here and there. Recalls are not an uncommon thing, but what’s uncommon in this situation is an automaker placing such a priority on getting the issues solved quickly and without much fuss.