Bad Design – Or Part of Why I’ll Never Buy Another Chrysler Vehicle

I had mentioned sometime back my decision (at the time) to not buy a Chrysler vehicle when we last bought a new car.  Nothing has happened in the last three and a half years has changed my mind.  Our Town and Country van continues to have occasional problems, with hints of second-time failures, where something that was fixed under warranty is acting like it might want to fail again – out of warranty of course.

I also had the occasion to drive a brand new 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan to Chicago and back last week.  Its design has been updated quit a bit since the 2006 van we bought, which makes perfect sense, but there are serious design problems with this van.  So much so that I’m now in the camp of never planning to buy another Chrysler product.

The very first two things I tried to do with this van were to fold down the seats to open up cargo space and open up the side doors.  Our van has Stow and Go seating, which was a great feature Chrysler added several years back.  The middle and rear seats are Stow and Go seats that fold down into the floor.  It was the killer feature that, along with a good history with Dodge vans, led us to buy the van we have now.

Our current van has a three step process to fold down the rear bench seats.  There are three loops that are numbered and you pull each in succession.  The 2012 van has four.  I pulled and pulled on the first one and couldn’t get it to budge no matter what I did or how hard I pulled.  It just wouldn’t move at all.  On a whim, I pulled on the second tab and it folded down the seat back, same as the number one tab on our current van does.  I have no idea what the number one tab on the 2012 van does, but it certainly seems superfluous.

The next thing I did should have been drop-dead simple.  I tried to open one of the sliding middle doors.  Our current van has power middle doors that open when you push a button inside the cabin.  The will also actuate if we don’t completely close the door.  Otherwise, the door opens and closes manually.  This is, by the way, the problem that appears to be repeating on our van.  The electrical cables that slide back and forth with the door wore out and failed on one of our doors.  That same door is acting up every now and again in the same way.

Any way, I went to the passenger side door on the 2012 van, grabbed the handle, and pulled on it to open the door.  The door opened about six inches and stuck.  Its actuator tried to start, but wouldn’t.  The door set there, stuck, with the power opener starting and stopping, but not moving the door.  I tried to open and close it manually, but it wouldn’t budge.

After what seemed like a minute or so, the door actuator finally stopped starting and stopping.  I don’t recall if I was then able to close or open it or if pulling on the handle again started the actuator which then opened the door, but I finally got it open.  I figured out that you could just tug on the handle and it would open or close the door.

At least it did so some of the time.  While traveling, maybe half the time I’d tug on the handle when the door was open and it wouldn’t close automatically.  It would move an inch or two and just sit there.  When that happened, I could close it manually.

I have no idea whether the doors are designed to open and close only under power or if they can be opened and closed manually without the power assist.  They functioned so inconsistently that I can’t tell how they are supposed to work.  I only know that they didn’t work the same every time and that’s not good.

I don’t know whether the door function  is a design problem or a manufacturing problem.  I’m pretty sure the rear seat fold down issue is a design problem.  Either way, I think the only thing about Chrysler that has gotten better in the last several years is their advertising.  The vehicles themselves leave a lot to be desired.  And the management of the company has been especially weak, in my opinion.  I have no current plans to buy a new car.  Whenever I do get in the market next, I can’t imagine what would happen for me to even consider buying a Chrysler product again.

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Comments

First if you don’t know what you are doing try reading the owners manual. The rear seats: the number 1 strap is to be pulled if the headrest is in the up position then 2 , 3 then 4. Not that hard to figure out.
As for the power doors they are designed to open with power when you push the button or pull the outside handle. If you pull the handle again while in motion it goes into manual mode. Not hard to figure out either.

I’ll grant you the first strap pulling the headrest. Makes sense and I’ve no idea what position they were in, but they were probably down which would explain nothing moving when I pulled on that strap. But the side door handles didn’t operate the way you suggest they should. The very first time I grabbed one, I got the door into a condition where it obviously wasn’t intended to be. I figured out that the door is supposed to open or close under power when you tub the handle, but several times during the three days I had the van, the doors didn’t do that. They just sat there.

Maybe I pulled the handle in a way that it bounced so that the door started moving under power and then stopped. Maybe I did so several times. I don’t think that matters. It worked erratically at best.

A vehicle shouldn’t be so non-intuitive to use that you really need to read the user guide before you do something so basic as opening the door or folding down the seat. That’s just bad design.

I fully realize that my sample size is small. Two older Dodge vans that were very reliable, one newer one that was very unreliable (and likely a lemon), and one new one that is poorly designed. But the one I own now was so bad and the one I got to drive was so flaky, I see a trend there.

So no more Chrysler’s for me.

The Town and Country was a complete disaster for Chrysler. I had a friend who had one and he always looked forward to summer when his school teacher wife was free and had time for constant trips to the dealership.

#1 tab for the stow & go seats is the headrest. You pull it and the headrest flips face forward and down, nesting with the seatback as if it weren’t there. Forever after that the #1 tab will do nothing if you don’t manually flip the headrest back up into its upright position, and the headrest so well fits into the seatback when folded that most riders don’t even notice.
The doors – don’t fight them. Let the electrical function do it’s full opening job without even thinking about touching the door. The safety sensors are sensitive. Any touch will halt the operation. If the door is nudged or bumped hard while the electrical operation is activated the door will have a seizure, as you describe. If you don’t like how the electrical functions work, if the door moves too slowly for your likes or needs, just push the switch off that allows electrical function and do it the manual way.

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