CONSUMER WATCH | No fix for overheating Cherokee as Jeep leaves owner in limbo

20 April 2023 - 09:25
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A Jeep Cherokee Longitude similar to the one owned by Vuyelwa Mtimkulu.
A Jeep Cherokee Longitude similar to the one owned by Vuyelwa Mtimkulu.
Image: Supplied

Vuyelwa Mtimkulu feels let down by the Jeep brand and its parent firm Stellantis South Africa.

She reached out to TimesLIVE Motoring with her account of issues experienced with Jeep Centurion, which has since closed its doors.

On November 29 2022 Mtimkulu took her vehicle — a 2018 Cherokee Longitude — in for a service, in addition to reporting an overheating problem and difficulty starting.

Collecting the vehicle on December 1, she was informed that faults were indeed registered by the on-board diagnostics system, affirming the concerns she had.

Later that month while driving to work, the vehicle overheated and could not be driven. It was towed to Jeep Centurion from Midrand. She was informed that a new radiator would be required.

This rendered the vehicle out of action from December 20 2022 to February 14 2023, according to Mtimkulu.

During that time, she claims to have had challenges contacting the dealership for feedback.

“My car was standing for over a week after it had been ready, I was using Uber during this time,” she noted.

Mtimkulu said that when she collected the vehicle, a sensor on the front bumper was loose and the technicians had been able to rectify this as she waited.

She also identified a crack in the windscreen. Having raised it, she was told to claim from her insurance, being assured by the dealership that it would cover the excess.

“I informed them that I was dissatisfied as this would disadvantage me with my insurer, they said that they would revert with a decision on this,” Mtimkulu stated.

The dealer principal reportedly asked her to seek a report from a reputable glass fitment centre explaining a reason for the windscreen crack, claiming the vehicle was not driven while in possession of Jeep Centurion.

She was then sent a copy of the job card terms document signed by owners taking their vehicles in for servicing, with reference to the clauses limiting liability of the dealership, granting agents of the dealership permission to drive the vehicle for test and inspection purposes.

Mtimkulu also noticed the warning triangle was missing.

“After driving about a kilometre or so from the dealership, the yellow check engine light illuminated, I turned around and reported this. After sitting at the dealership for almost two hours, I was informed to drive the car as is and see if the light stays on,” she said.

“They explained that the report from their diagnostic machine was inconclusive, I was informed that I should drive the car for a while to see if the issue will resolve itself.”

Two weeks later the overheating issue returned. This time, a grille shutter was suggested as the cause by the service adviser.

“The grille shutter was available in the workshop and would be ordered once I paid a deposit, I dropped off the car on Friday, March 10 for the grill shutter to be replaced, I picked up the car on Thursday, March 16 at around 1.15pm.”

“The car was parked at work until the evening when I drove home at around 9pm, when I got home the car was overheating again, I was informed that this is going to be a constant problem, I have not been able to drive the car since.”

Mtimkulu said her attempts to seek assistance from Jeep Centurion and Stellantis Customer Care were in vain. The vehicle currently has 123,480km on the odometer.

On March 28 we reached out to Stellantis South Africa, which provided a response on April 4.

The company said it was aware of Mtimkulu's experiences and had been liaising with its dealership to resolve the issues.

“As part of a consolidation process within our dealer network, our Centurion dealership is being merged with Grand Central Motors and Jeep Menlyn to offer a single facility to customers in the area,” the statement read.

“We certainly appreciate her frustration with the delay in parts supply to replace her radiator in December. Stellantis would like to apologise for this inconvenience and — like many other manufacturers — are working hard to recover timeous supply of parts in the shadow of the disruption to logistics caused by Covid-19.

“After replacing the radiator, further diagnostics to the customer’s overheating concerns indicated that the unit that controls the cooling fans needed replacing, the dealer advised the customer of this urgent requirement and to avoid driving the vehicle to avoid any further damage, the customer only returned the vehicle to the dealership more than 1,000km and a month later to replace this unit.

“Once the unit was replaced, the cooling system was fully functional, however, the damage caused to the engine through overheating during this period of use by the customer has resulted in more permanent damage to the engine itself.

“We have offered every assistance to Ms Mtimkulu within our control of the usage of the vehicle, including offering to cover the excess of her cracked windscreen while stored at the dealership. We remain committed to resolving the customer’s repairs to their vehicle and assisting wherever we can.”

Though promises were made to engage with Mtimkulu, including the arrangement of a meeting to discuss a resolution, she claimed she is yet to be contacted by Stellantis South Africa.

TimesLIVE Motoring reached out to Stellantis this week before publication. The company stated it would not be covering cost of repairs to the vehicle.

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