Help! My Jeep Wrangler 4xe hybrid doesn’t work in electric mode. Can I end my lease?

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By Christopher Elliott

Jillian Kavanagh regrets the day she signed the lease on a 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, a hybrid four-wheel drive. The vehicle failed during the winter and now only works in gas mode. It also shakes when she accelerates above 70 mph. She wants Stellantis, the car’s manufacturer, to terminate her lease and take back the malfunctioning Jeep.

“I think Jeep is engaged in fraud and false advertising,” she says.

A car manufacturer lying? What’s this world coming to?

I’m kidding. Every car case that drives through our advocacy department has a fraud angle. But this story is a standout because her Jeep failed on so many levels that I’m inclined to advocate for her. I’ll tell you how it ended in just a minute — and I’d love to get your opinion on the conclusion. (Scroll down for the poll.)

But on our journey that will take us to the resolution, we’ll also make a few interesting discoveries.

  • Is the Jeep 4xe a lemon?
  • What are your rights as a Jeep leaseholder?
  • How do you end a Jeep lease?

OK, let’s rev up our engines and get things moving.

Jillian’s story: a sudden engine failure on her Jeep

Two years ago, Kavanagh leased a new Jeep Wrangler 4xe, a plug-in hybrid, from her local Jeep dealership in Lynnfield, Mass. The sticker price was $62,000. 

“Only a couple of weeks afterward, I experienced sudden engine failure while driving the vehicle,” she recalls. 

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She called the dealership, which asked her to return the car for a full checkup.

The diagnosis?

“They found nothing,” she says. (Related: Here’s why you should always, always, always read your car rental confirmation.)

But over the next few months, the Jeep’s electric mode failed. 

“I frequently got an error message stating that the electric mode was ‘not available,'” she says. I was scheduled to go on vacation with my family and planned to follow up with the dealership afterward.”

But when she returned, there was bad news.

A recall and a shaking car

When she got back from vacation, Kavanagh received a letter from Stellantis. 

“There was a recall for the exact make and model due to engine failure,” she says. 

She contacted the dealership, which again told her there was nothing wrong with her Jeep.

Kavanagh took the Jeep back to the dealership to get serviced, and this time, the technicians found a problem with the car’s electric mode. She also learned that there was an ongoing class action lawsuit against Stellantis over the Jeep 4xe. The lawsuit alleges the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe has a defect that keeps the plug-in hybrid vehicle from running on electric power, especially in cold weather.

Stellantis reached out and offered an incentive to trade in her vehicle. But when she got to the dealership, she learned that her six-month-old car had depreciated by $22,000 from her original purchase price.

“As the weather started getting colder, the electric mode stopped working altogether, and this winter has been the same,” she says. “The car shakes once it reaches 70 mph as well.” (Related: Was I scammed by my car rental company?)

Privately, her dealership told her that the 4xe was “a dud” but said there was nothing more it could do. 

Kavanagh just wants to get out of her lease. But will Jeep and its parent company, Stellantis, let her?

Is the Jeep 4xe a lemon?

Although the Jeep Wrangler 4xe is a darling of environmentally minded drivers with an appetite for adventure, it is also plagued by problems. 

They include:

  • Bad performance: Reviewers have criticized the 4xe’s hybrid powertrain for its sluggish acceleration and lack of power compared to the standard Wrangler.
  • Design defects: Some drivers have noticed design flaws in the 4xe, such as water leaks, poor seals, and weak body structure. 
  • Electrical problems. Some owners have reported issues with the 4xe’s electrical system, including faulty batteries, blown fuses, and malfunctioning charging ports.
  • Poor fuel economy: Although the 4xe has been touted as a fuel-efficient alternative to traditional gasoline vehicles, some 4xe owners have reported unimpressive fuel economy. Some achieve only around 20 mpg combined. 
  • Software glitches: The 4xe’s software is reportedly buggy, causing issues such as erratic gauge readings, non-functional climate control systems, and random shutdowns. 
  • Transmission troubles: Drivers have also complained about problems with the 4xe’s transmission. That includes slipping, hesitation, and complete failure.

In other words, there’s a strong case that the Jeep 4xe is a lemon.

How do you end a Jeep lease?

Jeep’s car lease is a complex document. And ending a Jeep lease early can be a confusing process, filled with unknowns and potential financial burdens. 

Stellantis and its network of dealerships do not make it easy to study the lease agreement before your purchase, but I managed to find a sample lease online, buried deep on the Chrysler Capital site. (Related: Want your complaint to fail? Just say these five things.)

Bottom line: You can end a lease — but it’ll cost you.

Early termination fees

These are the biggest roadblock to your freedom. Jeep charges an early termination fee, calculated as a multiple of your remaining monthly payments, often ranging from 3 to 6 months. The lease agreement is crystal clear: 

EARLY TERMINATION. You may have to pay a substantial charge if you end this Lease early. The charge may be up to several thousand dollars. The actual charge will depend on when the Lease is terminated. The earlier you end the Lease, the greater this charge is likely to be.

Excess mileage

Exceeding your allotted mileage also incurs additional charges, typically per-mile penalties outlined in your lease agreement (usually 25 cents per mile). Be mindful of your odometer readings to avoid surprise costs.

Here’s the language from the lease agreement:

EXCESSIVE WEAR AND USE.You may be charged for excessive wear based on our standards for normal use and for mileage in excess of your contracted mile amount (“Regular Mileage”,

plus Additional Miles), at $ __________________ per mile. The “Regular Mileage” shall be __________________ miles per year. You have the option to purchase miles at Lease signing.

You hereby agree to purchase __________________ miles at $ __________________ per mile (“Additional Miles”). Amounts paid for Additional Miles that are not used upon termination of this Lease shall not be refundable.

Vehicle condition

Returning a vehicle with damage beyond normal wear and tear can result in additional fees to cover repairs or diminished value. That’s why it’s important to keep your Jeep in good condition throughout the lease.

The silver lining: You may be eligible for a voluntary lease buyout. That’s where you purchase the vehicle yourself before the lease ends. There may be associated fees and financing costs, and it’s only a viable option if you want to keep the car.

Remember to read your lease agreement before you sign

Carefully review the terms and conditions related to early termination, fees, and other relevant clauses before you sign on the dotted line. Recognize that it’s typically difficult and expensive to break a lease once you’ve committed.

Should I advocate this case?

I thought Kavanagh had a strong case, and I wanted to help. So I contacted Stellantis on her behalf.

A representative got back to me almost immediately and promised to review her claim. Shortly after that, I received an update from Kavanagh.

“I got a call from the dealership with an estimate of $25,000 to fix the car,” she reported. “It’s 18 months old with a Kelley Blue Book value of $35,000.” (Stellantis disputes this figure.)

Kavanagh called Stellantis to let them know she wasn’t interested in having the car fixed and wanted to get out of her lease.

But a few weeks later, Stellantis contacted her with its answer: No.

I reached out to Stellantis again to find out if that was its final answer. A company representative said her vehicle would be repaired under its warranty, so it would not charge her.  (Here’s our guide to contacting the CEO directly.)

“ETA for the battery is tomorrow,” he added.

A few days later, the representative said the car had been fixed for now.

Kavanagh wants to go to court to fix this, and I think that might be the best solution. Maybe she can join the proposed class action lawsuit against Jeep — if it is certified.

In the meantime, a word of warning if you’re thinking of buying a pre-owned Jeep Wrangler 4xe at a bargain price. There may be a reason it’s a bargain.

Was Jeep's offer to repair Kavanagh's car reasonable?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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