Different FCA Shifter, Same Problem? NHTSA Investigates Ram, Durango Rollaways

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
different fca shifter same problem nhtsa investigates ram durango rollaways

Just when it thought a troubling roll-away controversy and resulting recall was almost behind it, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles finds itself under investigation for a similar problem.

This time, it isn’t the now-defunct Monostable gear shift that supposedly confused drivers — it’s the rotary shifter found in late-model vehicles. After numerous complaints, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into 1 million FCA vehicles that could pose a roll-away risk.

According to online documents, NHTSA has the 2013-2016 Ram 1500 and 2014-2016 Dodge Durango in its sights. Both models use FCA’s rotary dial gear shift. While the shifters differ vastly from the Monostable units in terms of operation, owners report the same troubling issue.

NHTSA reports 43 complaints of vehicles rolling away from a stop. Of those incidents, 25 crashes and nine injuries resulted from the unexpected driverless excursions.

There’s a key difference between these rollaways and the earlier incidents (which may have contributed to the high-profile death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin). With the old Monostable unit, the shift lever returned to a center position after shifting, leaving no visual indicator that the vehicle was actually in park. The rotary dial, however, clearly indicates that the vehicle is in park. Drivers can feel the shifter click into gear, while an indicator light appears above the selected gear.

Of the 43 complaints, 34 owners say the vehicle moved on its own after the gear selector was placed in park. In each of those cases, the parking brake was not set and the engine was running.

While FCA hasn’t issued a recall of the affected models, it did warn owners to use the parking brake — a suggestion also issued by NHTSA. The automaker claims the rotary shifters found in the Chrysler Pacifica and 200 aren’t part of the investigation, as those vehicles automatically shift into park when drivers unbuckle their seatbelts or open their door.

[Source: Associated Press] [Image: © 2016 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars]

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2 of 46 comments
  • RS RS on Dec 20, 2016

    Just finished up a 2 year Ram lease - 2014 Ram QC with the knob selector. Truck was always parked on a slight hill and never used the parking brake once. Never had an issue.

  • OzCop OzCop on Dec 21, 2016

    I own a 2014 Ram with the 4 WD and the rotary selector...both the transmission and the 4 WD system operate with rotary knobs. I have had occasion where when pulling into my garage, I move forward enough to light the front bumper sensors, and when it changes from orange to red, I hold the brake, shift to reverse, and look at the back up camera to assure my trailer hitch is clear of the garage door when it closes. More than once, when satisfied I had ample clearance, for whatever cock-eyed reason I would turn the dial back to the right as opposes to further left, thinking I had it in park. And of course I would get the too close tone from the front bumper sensors and realize the error of my ways. My guess is there are people out there, for whatever reason, are turning the knob right rather than left thinking they have it in park when it is actually in drive. My guess is more than 40 plus people have done it, but only that number has reported it. Personally, I like the rotary selector, but it is my fault I screwed up a couple of times, not Fiat Chrysler...in my opinion...

  • SilverHawk At least in the short term, this is simply going to cause more anxiety among the more technology shy consumers looking to buy a new vehicle. Especially when this is not being done for the benefit of the vehicle owner, but for the convenience of GM's marketing department. Personal data security is an extremely important issue in today's world.
  • Ajla I don't think I'd be able to part with something I kept for 23 years. Especially as the only owner.
  • MaintenanceCosts What now?Lack of CarPlay would be disqualifying for me, and as a current GM EV owner I was a reasonably likely future GM EV customer. Not good at all.
  • FreedMike This could be the most expensive cheap car in Colorado. Buy one of these instead. Used 2003 Buick LeSabre Limited For Sale $5,984 | Cars.comYou'll thank me.
  • SCE to AUX Nope; winter never came to Pittsburgh this year (snowfall was down 70%), and I didn't miss it.