Fiat Chrysler announced it is recalling 1.1 million cars and SUV’s.
This massive recall is not necessarily due to a malfunction or faulty parts, but appears to be the result of a design flaw.
The gear shifter on these vehicles was engineered in such a way that it makes it difficult for drivers to tell whether or not the car is actually in park.
The recall effects automobile owners worldwide.
The U.S. recall involves 811,586 vehicles. The make and models affected by this recall include:
• 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers
• 2014 and 2015 Chrysler 300 sedans
• 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV’s
Also included are approximately 52,144 vehicles in Canada, 16,805 in Mexico and 248,667 in other areas outside of the US.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration caught wind of this problem after multiple customer complaints were filed and several injuries were reported. They launched an investigation into the issue, sparking the recall.
The crux of the problem lies in the electronic shift levers on the consoles. Once a driver shifts, the shifter lever springs back into the same position it was in before shifting. This leaves drivers unsure of whether or not the car is in park or drive. As a result, numerous drivers have exited their running vehicles while they are still in drive.
An owner in Walton, Indiana, describes an incident in which he left his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee running as he hopped out to quickly return a DVD. He thought he had put the car in park.
“My 23-year-old son was in the passenger seat and yelled out, ‘Dad, the car is moving,’” he wrote. “I jumped back in and put my foot on the brake and watched the shift indicator as I slowly moved the shifter up so it indicated ‘park.’”
The shifting confusion is not just limited to park. In Rochester Hills, Michigan, a driver related a story concerning an accident that occurred as a direct result of the ambiguity this gear shift causes:
“Intending to back into my driveway, I shifted into reverse,” the complaint read. “The vehicle was not in reverse and crashed into the vehicle that was parked … across the street.”
To date, 41 injuries have been reported due to this issue.
Sean Kane of Safety Research and Strategies, a firm that researches car-safety issues, says the problem is a design flaw more than anything else. He says it’s the result of engineers failing to fully anticipate all scenarios in which drivers use the shifters. Up until recently, automatic transmissions were mechanical, making it easier to ensure the car was in the correct gear. Now that they are electronic, it’s easier to become confused, which helps explain the accidents.
“It’s a high number of injuries,” Kane says. “I think it’s a complete lack of human-factors engineering and a lack of built-in fail-safes.”
Owners of the recall vehicles will be notified and dealers will provide the necessary transmission updates to ensure the vehicle does not move once the driver has exited. Fiat Chrysler also will be adding enhanced warning signals as an additional safety precaution.