The death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin has shed light on a problem with certain models of Jeeps and other Fiat Chrysler vehicles. Fiat Chrysler issued a recall notice on more than one million affected vehicles in April. They say they’re working on a solution and the remedy will include a software change. A solution is expected no later than July or August. While the cause of Yelchin’s accident is still being investigated, it’s the first death that could be linked to this safety defect.
The issue stems from the fact that the shifter itself is confusing as it does not move into different positions with each gear. The shifter is like a joystick and it returns to a center position - the driver must make sure the proper gear is selected and the NHTSA has said the shifter is “not intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback.”
Drivers thought they left their cars in park, only to find they were in neutral and started rolling away after the driver stepped out. Rollaway accidents are very dangerous and last August the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration informed Fiat Chrysler they were investigating complaints from 14 owners. When the recall was issued, the company had 700 reports “potentially related to the issue,” including 212 crashes and 41 injuries.
The problem involves the gear shifter on 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokees and some 2012-14 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s. Fiat Chrysler introduced the gear-shifter design, which it calls the Monostable in 2011. The benefits of the new shifter included eliminating “high efforts in shifting” and improved “smoothness of garage and parking lot shifts.” Fiat Chrysler has since discontinued the shifter for model year 2016.
The shifter recall is unusual, because it doesn’t involve a particular failure related to the mechanics of the vehicle, instead it’s an ergonomics issue in which the new design operation is not intuitive.
The automaker promised to speed up its recalls and agreed to pay penalties that could amount to $105 million. All owners should check their VIN at www.safercar.gov to see if their vehicle has been recalled and to also be vigilent in making sure the proper position is selected. All vehicles listed on Instamotor are reviewed for active and open recalls and all users are notified of outstanding recalls and the remedies available.