Roll With It: FCA Voluntarily Recalls 1.1 Million Models With Confusing Gear Selector

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Like an unoccupied Dodge Charger stuck in “Drive,” Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ gear selector controversy was rapidly building momentum before yesterday’s announcement.

Responding to numerous instances of runaway vehicles and an expanding National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation, FCA voluntarily recalled 811,586 vehicles in the U.S. and 52,144 in Canada, and a further 265,473 in Mexico and overseas.

The recalled models — certain 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s, and 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees — were equipped with the company’s eight-speed automatic transmission and featured a gear selector that bewildered many owners. Some drivers exited their vehicles after mistakenly believing the selector was in “Park,” leading to 41 known injuries.

In a statement, FCA said the accidents were due to driver error, and emphasized that the gear selectors — though confusing — functioned as designed:

The vehicles affected by this recall are equipped with electronic shift levers that return to the same position after each manipulation. Gear-selection is conveyed to the driver by multiple sets of indicator lights, not gear-selector position, and unless due care is taken, drivers may draw erroneous conclusions about the status of their vehicles.

The automaker stopped using the gear selector after complaints piled up. The NHTSA began investigating those complaints last summer.

FCA said a warning chime sounds when the affected vehicle’s engine is running, the driver’s side door is ajar and the gear selector is out of Park, but that warning will be upgraded.

Other safety measures are planned, though the automaker remains vague on exactly what the fix will be. In their words, “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.”

Steph Willems
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  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Apr 26, 2016

    "In a statement, FCA said the accidents were due to driver error, and emphasized that the gear selectors — though confusing — functioned as designed:" Blaming the owners? Sergio Marchionne is a jerk.

  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on May 20, 2016

    The "Shifter for Automatic Transmission" has a long history of problems. I'm just old enough to remember the PNDLR on the column, I think those were GMs. Apparently there was a detent to get into Reverse, pull back on the lever, but it was subject to wear. A significant number of drivers got R when they wanted D or L. The results were sometimes bad. Next one I recall was the Ford Reverse detent failure of the 1970s. Many cars slid out of P into R due to wear, vibration, and overall bad design of the mechanism. Again more bad endings. Then came the Audi 5000 "unintended acceleration"/"pedal misapplication". Out of that came the interlock between the brake and the shift lever. Could not shift out of Park without stepping on the brake. Next there was the system to prevent removal of the ignition key unless the shifter was in P. Most, if not all, cars and trucks with these devices had a method to bypass them if something failed so the car could be driven, but what happened when someone with no knowledge of this (and the owners manual is long gone) was stuck somewhere? Now we have cars without any keys so all these 'safety' systems are handled electronically. Of course, those systems NEVER have problems. I have not seen anything with the shifter described here. From what some have written there may not be a mechanical Parking Brake on some of these vehicles. This all seems lot a lot of trouble just waiting to happen. Anyone that leaves a vehicle without setting the Parking Brake (the lever or pedal that actuates some of the brake system) deserves what they get. I recall hearing, on a call in radio show, from someone that wanted to know if he could sue the car manufacturer because on the vehicle in question, from the 80s, the key could be removed without the shifter being in Park. According to the caller, the car, on two different occasions, rolled away and crashed into things when he left it. I stand with my statement about using the Parking Brake. And car makers that have these bizarre electronic shifters are asking for trouble.

  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.
  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?
  • Mike Bradley Advertising, movies and TV, manufacturing, and car culture have all made speeding and crashing the ultimate tests of manhood. Throw in the political craziness and you've got a perfect soup of destruction and costs.