In a major transmission-related recall, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Friday recalled more than a million Jeep Grand Cherokees, Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s because of a shifter problem. The problem vehicles are equipped with European-style electronic shifters whose console-mounted gearshifts may seem like they are in “Park,” but they are not.
An investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the automaker found that drivers, thinking they had safely chosen “Park,” left their vehicles only to find their cars rolling, sometimes at them or many times away, because the vehicle was not in the correct gear.
FCA said it was aware of 41 injuries that were potentially linked to the shifter. NHTSA has said that it had received 314 complaints about the shifter, including reports of 121 crashes that occurred once the vehicles rolled. When they rolled, the vehicles struck building, the drivers or other cars. The agency’s injury reports include at least seven severe accidents that required hospitalization. The injuries included three fractured pelvises.
The recalled vehicles employed a monostable electronic shifter to control their multi-geared transmissions. It is the same style transmission that is used in high-end German sports cars. Monostable shifters have only three positions – front, middle and rear. In normal operation, an operator starts the vehicle and chooses the gearing by cycling up or down through Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Low (PRNDL) as the driver desires. On finding the right setting, the shifter sits in the middle.
In order to warn drivers that something is wrong with the shifter setting, FCA said Friday that the vehicles have “chimes and alert messages” that deliver warnings if and when the driver-side door is opened while the vehicle is running and in the wrong gear and not in “Park.”
The automaker said in a statement that it is apparent the warnings are sufficient and fail to keep some drivers from leaving their vehicles “without selecting Park, so FCA US will enhance the warnings and transmission-shift strategies on these vehicles. 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 will notify owners of the recall and indicate when they can bring their vehicles to their dealers to be fixed. Until they receive notice, FCA urged owners to re-read the vehicle’s manual to become familiar with proper shifter operation.
The vehicles involved in the recall include:
- 811,586 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokees, 2012-14 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans in the United States
- 51,144 vehicles in Canada
- 16,805 vehicles in Mexico
- 248,667 vehicles outside North America
Automotive News, Bloomberg and Reuters provided information for this item.