In December 2022, Chrysler, a subsidiary of Stellantis, the international automotive conglomerate that came from the 2021 merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with PSA Group, issued a recall of 62,909 Jeep Wrangler 4Xe SUVs. The recall was first reported by Carscoops on December 5th. Car & Driver picked it up on the 7th. Other automotive blogs followed suit shortly thereafter. The Wrangler plug-in hybrid was recalled due to a problem with its powertrain that could shut down the vehicle unexpectedly while in motion, creating a serious roadway hazard. The fault is widely reported to have caused at least two accidents and one injury.
The plug-in hybrid Jeep 4xe powertrain was introduced in July 2020 for the 2021 model year. Introduced on the Jeep Renegade and Compass, it was added to the Wrangler in September of that year and marketed as the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Unlike gas hybrids, which have the engine running in tandem with electric motors through a common gearbox, reducing fuel consumption, a plug-in hybrid is designed as a series hybrid, which uses battery-driven electric motors as the only means of transmitting power to the drivetrain. Plug-in hybrids can be thought of as electric vehicles with a gasoline-powered range-extending generator.
The plug-in hybrid powertrain is seen as a midway step between gasoline-powered cars and trucks and fully electric vehicles. Plug-in hybrids, because they aren’t connected to the wheels directly, allow the engine to always run at its most efficient speed while it’s running. They provide an additional margin of comfort for drivers who experience range anxiety that makes them not yet ready to completely commit to the all-electrical experience but want the savings at the pump of an electric hybrid vehicle. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe has a combined gas mileage of over 49 MPG/e by EPA estimation methods. This makes it one of the best in its class for fuel efficiency.
The Issue At Fault
Jeep has not disclosed the exact problem with the Jeep Wrangler 4xe but the recall affected nearly all vehicles of the model built between September 2, 2020, and August 17, 2022. The company was quoted as saying the vehicles could experience “an engine shutdown condition caused by diagnostic reactions to faults caused by loss of communication,” according to an Autoblog post on the 9th of December. The sudden shutdown of the engine resulted in 196 warranty claims, 65 field reports, two accidents, and at least one injury, according to the NHTSA.
It was widely reported as early as September 2021, as a class action suit was proposed against FCA US (before its merger into Stellantis) on September 17th of that year, according to classaction.org. The earliest forum posts related to the problem appeared by July of that year. Despite this knowledge that the problem was happening as early as 2021, no action was taken by Stellantis until late 2022.
Notification of Owners and Dealers
The notification went out to dealers and owners on January 12, 2023. Despite this problem presenting a significant danger to drivers, Jeep had not issued a “stop drive” order to drivers with affected vehicles but did issue a “stop sale” order for unsold vehicles until the fix had been rolled out. The NHTSA estimated that 100% of the vehicles involved in the recall are defective, a defect that appears to be a software problem related to the transmission control module and auxiliary hybrid control processor. The fix is a software patch to both systems, and no information suggests that after patching the two modules, the problem recurs.
Other Recalls Involving The Model
Jalopnik reports that the Wrangler, a popular SUV derived from the original Willys MB/Ford GPW “Jeep” command truck of World War II, has encountered four recalls since its release in 2020. Besides the communication loss engine shutdown issue affecting all of the vehicles, the diesel-powered version of the truck had a recall issued along with two other Chrysler models, Jeep Gladiator and Ram 1500, for a defective fuel pump that could cause a similar engine stall. The 2022 and 2023 model years of the Wrangler 4xe additionally have a loose fastener recall for its 200-amp fuse housing and a line-wide recall for inoperative side marker lights. If you own any vehicle described by these recalls, contact your Chrysler dealership for servicing.
After World War II, the Willys-Overland company took its successful and iconic Willys MB military truck and packaged it as the Jeep CJ series, an iconic vehicle that was offered beginning in 1944. Jeep was owned by Willys until it was sold to Kaiser in 1963. Kaiser sold the underperforming division to American Motors in 1970, which made Jeep the centerpiece of their business. American Motors Corporation was purchased by Chrysler in 1987. Jeeps continued to serve in the US Military as the iconic M151 and its derivatives until they were phased out through the 1980s and replaced by the M998 HMMWV, which gained an iconic status of its own during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm.
Chrysler purchased American Motors in 1987, completing the deal in 1988. Jeep became the centerpiece of a revitalized consumer truck lineup. The Jeep Wrangler is the iconic centerpiece of Jeep’s brand identity, in much the way as the 911 is to the luxury automaker Porsche.
Author Bio: Luke Wilhoit has held the title of automotive content writer, editor, and managing editor. He is now the Director of SEO at Automotive-Marketing.com where they specialize in automotive SEO services as well as everything related to automotive digital marketing strategies for large-scale automotive companies.