NHTSA Investigation Finds 266 Crashes Linked To FCA Gearshift Issue, 68 Injured

FCA’s confusing monostable gearshift selector is reportedly linked to 266 crashes, the NHTSA discovered.
Monostable shifter on Jeep Grand Cherokee 1 photo
Photo: FCA/Jeep
The investigation made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that 68 people were injured because they thought they set their vehicles in Park.

Unfortunately for them, the non-intuitive shifter did not behave as they expected, so their vehicles rolled away with their engines on and led to injuries.

In total, 266 crashes were linked to the issue, but a total of 686 complaints were filed to the NHTSA, which eventually resulted in this inquiry.

The investigation began on February 3, 2016, and focused on Fiat Chrysler Automobiles products which featured ZF’s eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The transmission used a monostable gearshift in these cars, and users found the selector confusing to use because it did not provide any tactile feedback of the gear that it selected.

Instead, the shifter lights up the symbol of the selected gear, and a gauge on the instrument panel shows the chosen gear, but many owners incorrectly presumed their vehicles were in Park and rolled away.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced a recall to tackle the issue, and the corporation announced on April 22, 2016, that it is aware of 41 injuries from the problem.

FCA’s proposed fix involved a software update, which would switch the transmission to Park automatically when the vehicle would have its driver’s side door opened while the engine was running.

Known owners were notified through a letter which was sent on June 24, 2016. Unfortunately, a 27-year-old actor famous for his role in Star Trek, Anton Yelchin, died after his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled in his driveway and crushed him against a brick pillar. The incident was ruled as an accident, but investigators are still researching if the fatality is directly caused by the known fault of the FCA monostable shifter.

Meanwhile, the Italian premium brand Maserati organized a recall for the 2014 Quattroporte and Ghibli, which uses the same shifter design. Unlike other FCA products, the Maserati models did not cause any accidents of injuries because of their gearshift selector issue.

The same kind of shifter is found in Audi’s A8 flagship sedan, but no injuries or incidents involving the model were reported as linked to the monostable unit.
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About the author: Sebastian Toma
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Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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