Sticking Cruise Control Forces Recall of 4.8 Million Chrysler Vehicles

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When a vehicle’s cruise control is working properly, the driver can set a preferred speed until the brakes are tapped. That shuts off the cruise control and the driver now needs to use the gas pedal to control the vehicle’s speed.

But what if the car is being driven with the cruise control on and when the brakes are tapped it keeps going at the preset speed — or even speeds up? That’s the problem that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) now gets to fix on 4.8 million vehicles built between model years 2014 and 2019.

The problem stems from a failure in the engine or powertrain control module that is caused by a short circuit and results in an inability for the two modules to communicate with one another. Thus stepping on the brake does not disengage the cruise control. According to the recall report: “If the driver does not shift to neutral or apply the brakes to stop the vehicle this condition can cause a vehicle crash without warning.”

To fix the problem, FCA will inspect the software on the engine and powertrain modules and, “if necessary, perform a software flash [on the modules] … to improve the fault handling.” That doesn’t really fix the root cause of the failure, but it clears the cruise control setting if communication between the modules fails.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 100% of the following vehicles are affected by this recall:

  • 2014–2018 Dodge Journey
  • 2014–2018 Charger and Durango
  • 2014–2018 RAM 2500, 3500, 3500 Cab Chassis (more than 10,000 lb), 4500 Cab Chassis and 5500 Cab Chassis
  • 2014–2018 Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300
  • 2014–2019 RAM 1500
  • 2015–2018 Dodge Challenger
  • 2015–2017 Chrysler 200
  • 2016–2018 RAM 3500 Cab Chassis (less than 10,000 lb)
  • 2017–2018 Chrysler Pacifica
  • 2018 Jeep Wrangler vehicles

The recall is expected to begin July 6 and FCA will notify owners. The NHTSA also notes that owners of these vehicles should not use the cruise control until the vehicle has been inspected and the software update has been applied.

Shares of FCA traded down about 2.7% Friday morning, at $21.66 in a 52-week range of $10.33 to $24.95.