FCA recalls 1.1 million sedans, SUVs with Euro-style shifters after injuries
Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 1.1 million SUVs and sedans worldwide with European-style electronic shifters to prevent the vehicles from moving if a driver forgets to put the vehicles in park.
The recall, announced Friday, affects an estimated 811,586 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2012-14 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans in the United States, FCA said. It also includes 52,144 of the vehicles in Canada, 16,805 in Mexico and 248,667 outside North America.
An investigation by the automaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found some drivers had left their vehicles without putting them in park. FCA said it was aware of 41 injuries that were potentially related to the design.
FROM OUR ARCHIVE: I agree with NHTSA: E-shifters stink, but they're not defective
The vehicles have automatic transmissions controlled by a monostable electronic shifter, similar to those in many high-end German sport sedans. A monostable shifter has just three positions: front, middle and back. The shifter rests in the middle, and the user cycles either up or down through park, reverse, neutral drive and low as desired.
FCA said the vehicles have “warning chimes and alert messages” if their driver-side doors are opened while the engine is running and the vehicle is in a gear other than park.
“However, investigation suggested these measures may be insufficient to deter some drivers from exiting their vehicles without selecting Park, so FCA US will enhance the warnings and transmission-shift strategy on these vehicles,” FCA said in a statement. “The enhancements will combine warnings with a transmission-shift strategy to automatically prevent a vehicle from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to select Park.”
FCA said it will notify affected customers when the enhancements are available. Until then, it is advising consumers to read their owner’s manuals to familiarize themselves more fully with how the shift mechanism is intended to work.
FCA replaced monostable shifters in the vehicles, beginning with the Charger and 300 in 2015 and the Grand Cherokee in 2016, with more traditional gated shifters.
NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas said the agency "will be monitoring this recall carefully to ensure that (Fiat Chrysler) produces a safe solution and gets the vehicles remedied as quickly as possible."
NHTSA said in February it had reports of 314 complaints, including 121 crashes after vehicles rolled away, some striking buildings, drivers or other cars. Injury reports include three complaints of a fractured pelvis and four others requiring some other degree of hospitalization.
NHTSA said testing of the vehicles' electronic gear shifter found it "not intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection."
Gear-selection is conveyed to drivers by indicator lights, not gear-selector position, which may lead drivers to falsely assume vehicles are in park, the company said. Vehicles deliver warning chimes and messages if driver-side doors are opened while engines are still running and park is not engaged.
Many of the crashes occurred soon after the vehicles were purchased. One complaint said that in September 2015, a new Jeep Grand Cherokee in Leonardtown, Md., rolled forward and struck headstones in a cemetery causing $1,500 in damage.
Reuters contributed to this report.