In the middle of a busy intersection, with traffic headed right at them, Heidi and Marty Jones of Valparaiso say their new 2015 Jeep Cherokee shuddered, stuttered and refused to accelerate. That moment followed dozens of other nerve-wracking incidents in traffic, they say, and was their final straw.
"That was about the point when I realized enough was enough," Heidi Jones told NBC5 Responds.
Jones and her husband drove the $41,000 car to a relative’s garage, parked it and walked away.
"It was just too dangerous to bring my little son in that car anymore," Marty Jones said. “It would happen every day, but you didn't know when each day… It would stall in the intersection, then floor itself."
The Jones family has company: NBC5 Responds uncovered 492 similar complaints, filed with the federal government by owners of 2014 and 2015 Jeep Cherokees. Many blame the fleet’s novel 9-speed transmission, the first of its kind for a consumer car.
“It's like a Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-- doing things nobody would expect it to do," Chicago attorney Greg Moss told NBC5. Moss is not the Jones’ attorney, but has close to two dozen cases he’s filing on behalf of similarly-affected Jeep owners.
“Most people are worried about the lack of acceleration issue and hesitation issue when they're in traffic and they're at a light or merging onto the highway. They just don't know what's going to happen,” Moss said. "People say to me, ‘I got the software upgraded and they flashed my transmission control module and I got back in the car and it happened right away, right after that.’"
Back in Valparaiso, three-time Jeep owners Heidi and Marty Jones say they were running out of patience, after the carmaker and their local dealer both said no to their multiple requests for a fair resolution. That changed when NBC5 Responds reached out to Grieger’s Motor Sales in the area. The owner of the car dealership agreed the Jones family had been through enough, and wrote them a check for $30,000.
“Ms. Jones had ultimate recourse with FCA (the parent company of Jeep) for the issues, but I decided the best course of action was to purchase the vehicle back from the customer,” Grieger’s President Dave Rodgers said in a statement to NBC5 Responds. “I believe that purchasing the Cherokee back from her on August 5, 2016 was the best and quickest way to resolve her difficult situation without further delays. I was concerned that any further claim with the manufacturer would be an even longer process for her and her family.”
FCA, the parent company of Jeep, declined to talk to NBC5 Responds on camera, but says the 9-speed transmission was new in 2014 and continues to have great promise. The company acknowledged "unexpected performance issues” which they continue to address. FCA says two individual Lemon Law-type cases have gone to court in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where FCA prevailed in both.
“It’s just so nice to have somebody like you guys on our side,” Heidi told NBC5 Responds. “We didn’t have to spend all the time and money…getting lawyers and continuing to fight!”