Confusing Shifter Prompts Fiat Chrysler to Recall 1.1 Million Cars

Back in February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was looking into the electronic shifters equipping certain Fiat Chrysler products. Why? Because they were deemed to cause the car to roll away after it had been parked. To prevent such a scenario, Fiat Chrysler is now recalling 1.1 million vehicles.
Jeep Grand Cherokee shift lever 1 photo
Photo: Jeep
It still isn’t clear whether transmission manufacturer ZF will foot the bill of the recall, but either way, this is a gargantuan effort for Fiat Chrysler, an automaker that isn’t enjoying the best of times. According to a release from FCA regarding the matter at hand, “some drivers have exited their vehicles without first selecting ‘PARK.’ Such behavior may pose a safety risk if a vehicle’s engine is still running.” No kidding, Sherlock!

As if that weren’t “For real?” enough, the automaker informs that the affected vehicles deliver a warning chime to alert the driver whenever the driver-side door is opened while the engine is still running and PARK is not engaged.

Fiat Chrysler is aware of 41 injuries that are potentially related to the issues with the shifters. The company emphasizes “potentially” because the vehicles involved in these cases were inspected and no evidence of failure was found by those entitled to tell you what’s wrong with a gear lever.

The nameplates that make up the recall include the 2012 to 2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300, as well as the 2014 to 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Fiat Chrysler hasn’t made the solution to the issue public, albeit the most cost-efficient fix would be to add a code to the electronic brain of the transmission that puts the cog-swapper into PARK when the driver’s door is open.

This recall is somewhat intriguing based on the fact that the 8-speed ZF automatic and the shifter’s design is used by Audi in some of its models, including the A8 full-size sedan. Furthermore, the push-button PARK position is used by BMW since, like, forever, and nobody complained about it. Check this space for the announcement when service becomes available for the affected nameplates. In the interim, Fiat Chrysler “urges customers to follow the instructions in their owners’ manuals.”

In other words, don’t forget to put it in PARK.
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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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