By on January 3, 2017

2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

First, it was Fiat Chrysler Automobiles products with a tendency to roll away, even after owners placed them in park. Then, Ford decided to make sure vehicles with rotary shift knobs didn’t do the same thing, offering a “Return to Park” feature on the 2017 Fusion.

Two weeks ago, it was FCA’s turn again. The automaker found itself the focus of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation after more reported rollaways, this time with rotary-shift Rams and Dodges.

Well, NHTSA now has Jaguar Land Rover in its crosshairs. Care to guess why?

According to Bloomberg, NHTSA opened a preliminary evaluation on December 16 after reports of rollaways with certain JLR models. The tentative probe covers the 2012-2014 Range Rover Evoque and 2013 Jaguar XF — a potential total of 39,000 vehicles.

Seven complaints landed on the agency’s doorstep, with owners claiming the vehicles rolled away after being placed in park. The parking brake had not been set on any of the vehicles.  In one of the incidents, an owner was pinned against a garage wall. Four other people were injured by the opened door of a rolling vehicle.

Both models, like the Fusion and FCA vehicles, come equipped with a rotary dial gearshift. While preliminary evaluations are only meant to determine of a problem exists, if NHTSA does find a defect, a recall could be in order.

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56 Comments on “Rotary Shift Knobs Spark Another Rollaway Investigation...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    “Well, NHTSA now has Jaguar Land Rover in its crosshairs. Care to guess why?”

    Because NHTSA has to do something to justify its existence??

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    Big Cat Pounces Another Owner!

    Just wants a cuddle.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Make America Great again – bring back the column shifter. And bonus if it has a mechanical clunk when you go into park.

    • 0 avatar
      mtmmo

      I second that!

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      That is so right!

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Column shifters suck, too: it’s easy to blow past the detents.

      No, gated console shifters worked, and worked well: they had full stops (not just detents) where it made sense to have them, and the control’s actuator was immediately adjacent to, and obviously correlated with, the indicator of position.

      You knew you were in park, even if the indicator was broken because the shift lever was right beside the “P”. That’s perfect control design: there’s no need to screw around with it.

      Rotary dial shifters are better than console ones inasmuch as the indicator and actuator are right next to each other. The detents suck and are easily overshot or missed, but they suck and are easily missed on the column, too.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “Column shifters suck, too: it’s easy to blow past the detents”

        Completely, unambiguously agree with this. Every time I’ve driven a big pickup with a column shifter I dislike it. I’d rather have a rotary than a column.

        • 0 avatar
          orenwolf

          I would think a rotary shifter would be fine provided it has a hard stop at Park, and isn’t just a bunch of detents spinning endlessly.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Old time Mopar column shifters were good in that if you pushed forward on them, you’d at least get locked out of reverse and you could easily pop into neutral out of any forward gear. Going D-2 was also easy without inadvertently going D-1, and the detents were pronounced enough that R-D was easy too…

      • 0 avatar
        SunnyvaleCA

        Ye olde Mercedes column shifters had full stops just like their new (1980s) gated console shifters. The only downside to the column shifters is that the linkage became more complicated (at least on manual transmission cars).

        Either way, the gated system where each change requires a change of direction works very well. It’s easy enough to learn the motion to get from drive quickly into park, but if you only want to move one change at a time that is easy to accomplish too.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      You mean like the Ford shifter of the mid-70s, which managed either not to go into park or to pop out of park?

      People can’t operate cars. Film at 11.

      And these are the same people we’re indulging with a goddam large screen phone in the middle of the dash, to make sure they kill everyone else as they take themselves out while going 70mph and not looking out the window.

      Passengers who happen to be in the driver’s seat…

  • avatar
    gasser

    Just make it so you can’t pull out the key unless you shift into park first.
    Oh wait I forgot there are no more keys.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Eliminate the park setting on the rotary dial. Setting the electronic parking brake engages the automatic transmission’s park function.
    The car can only be started or turned off in neutral.
    For safety reasons, the parking brake (emergency brake) can be engaged while the car is in motion without the park function being engaged.
    If a person tries to get out of a vehicle while not in park, the door requires two positive engagements on the door handle to open.

    Or just put the stick back in there. The rotary dials I’ve driven proved to be non-intuitive and makes me understand how someone could mix it up and not put a car in park.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No on the eliminated the park position and making the parking brake engage that. There are lots of people int he show belt and many of them know that you don’t put the parking brake on in sub freezing temps if you want to drive the car again before spring.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        If you use your parking brake daily and lube the cables occasionally, setting the parking brake in sub-zero temps is not a problem. I’ve done it with all of my cars and have lived the majority of my life in the Upper Midwest.

      • 0 avatar
        pragmatic

        Use to happen the the 70’s and 80’s. I drive only drive MTs and have not had a parking brake freeze on on any vehicle built after 1990.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      “The rotary dials I’ve driven proved to be non-intuitive and makes me understand how someone could mix it up and not put a car in park.”

      Owner of a 2017 Fusion here, and I honestly can’t figure out how people can screw this up. Yeah, I get that I have the one model that apparently has safeguards built in, but I just don’t understand how someone could fail to notice that they did not put their car into park (or left it in gear, neutral, whatever). It’s not like there isn’t an indicator on the dial, and we all know how to turn a dial…

      I honestly wonder if the people filing the complaints aren’t the same sort of people who would leave a car with a conventional shifter in neutral or drive, and are only complaining about it because they think that the rotary dial gives them a new angle for filing a lawsuit.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        I’ll admit that it might be muscle memory making it seem strange and require extra attention on my part to figure out what gear I was in, but I experienced it in the 2017 Fusion I test drove.
        I’m sure after a while I wouldn’t have to look at the indicator anymore when shifting. But I imagine most of the incidents are occurring when people start to think they’re used to it but they aren’t yet and misjudge how far they’ve turned it.

      • 0 avatar
        mtunofun

        I have a 17 Fusion too and agree that it’s pretty much foolproof. My only area of concern is conveyor belt carwashes. I put the car in neutral and then i get a warning that I have to press the ok button to confirm that I want to keep in neutral. I started freaking out because there’s like 3 ok buttons on the dash. Luckily i pressed the correct button (right ok button on steering wheel), but I wonder, If i hadnt pressed the ok button before the timer went off, would the car have parked itself?

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I think what’s happening with these things is that since pretty much every car that’s not a base trim these days comes with keyless ignition, it’s now no longer necessary to put the car in park to extract your key from the steering column. That makes it a lot easier to forget you haven’t actually put it in park yet before getting out of the car.

    (Speaking for myself, setting the parking brake has been a reflex since I learned to drive 25 years ago. (It was NOT a reflex for Mom, so she burnt out the rear brakes on our ’77 Microbus because the only indication it was on was a nearly-invisible light on the dash after I drove it once and set the brake.) I wonder how long it’s going to take me to get used to the electronic p-brake on my soon-to-be-purchased ’17 CR-V.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Had a friend with a rental Chrysler 200 recently (is there any other type of 200?), she said it was the biggest piece of crap she’s ever driven. For context, she was driving an ’08 Versa… She said that the rotary shifter was a big part of what contributed to it being a POS because she didn’t feel confident in what gear it was in.

    Rotary shifters need to die in a fire.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      If your friend couldn’t figure out FCA’s rotary shifter, she shouldn’t be driving. Sure, an uninitiated driver might have to pay an extra moment’s attention on the first few uses. But the shifter’s detents are firm, and the current position is clearly indicated both immediately adjacent to the knob and in the instrument cluster. There is zero ambiguity.

  • avatar
    legacygt

    I drive a Durango with the rotary shifter. I would say it’s pretty bad. Not as bad as the rocker style lever that FCA had in some cars for a couple years (and has since eliminated) but it’s still bad. There’s a visual indication of your selection near the rotary knob and on the dash. I guess the engineers and lawyers determined that’s enough. Maybe it is. But it’s not as much feedback as you get from a lever that moves and stays in a location for each selection. Traditional levers offer visual and tactile feedback. You see that it is forward for park and back for reverse and so on. You develop a feel for where it is for each selection. The problem with the knob is that it looks and feels the same no matter what selection you’ve made.

    Is this the end of world? Clearly, no. Most owners use these shifters for years without incident. But the benefits of the change a minimal. Maybe they are cheaper and take up a bit less space. But functionally they offer no benefit.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      And “Cheaper and less space” could also be achieved with a similar select-by-wire switch that is shaped like and operates identically to the familiar PRNDL lever.

      These knobs seem like a poorly-conceived attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist while simultaneously bringing up a whole host of new problems.

      I like progress, but the knobs aren’t progress. They’re just different.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      “The problem with the knob is that it looks and feels the same no matter what selection you’ve made.”

      BINGO – No human factors study would allow such a control to replace an intuitive shift lever unless the carmaker chose to ignore the evidence of said studies.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    Does like no one set their parking brakes anymore?

    I’m confused for the knob-turning type as being an issue. I can get a toggle level like FCA uses being a problem because you have to flick it a few times until you end up on the setting you want (I think that’s how it works, anyway), but presumably with the knob/dial type, you can just turn it left to “park”, and it hits a hard stop, right? Just like how pushing “up” on a traditional lever until it stops works today?

    If they made those knobs freewheel without stops, well, then they deserve all the scorn they can get.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I don’t think people are paying attention to what they’re doing.

      They’re not verifying the car is in “Park”, nor are they setting their parking brake. Complete those two activities, and the car shouldn’t be going anywhere.

      • 0 avatar
        markogts

        +1 for Geozinger. It’s time for some victim blaming. If you always use two safeties, it’s impossible to get in troubles. I’m sick and tired of this wrongly conceived consumerism where people ask corporations to be their nannies.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    None of these shifters do anything for end users. Very few vehicles take advantage of the freedom to place the transmission controls anywhere; they typically occupy at least as much space as mechanical shifters. In that context, the least they could do is make something that operates in a way that people are used to.

  • avatar
    cblais19

    The bizarre push button shifter Acura uses in their 9 speed equipped cars at least automatically engages park if you open the driver door and the vehicle is in any other gear.

    • 0 avatar
      mtmmo

      The gear shifter set-up is on the bizarre side as I live with it daily (TLX company car). I like the into Park feature when I open the door. Car has a great v6 but the trans is awful.

  • avatar
    BaBlogger77

    Even with cars that presently have a column shifter, many changed the way it traditionally operated. No more being able to judge the transmission’s position by looking at the shifter in relation to the steering column. Instead, in many cases, this stalk is just a glorified spring loaded electronic switch that snaps back to its original position like an elastic band once moved. As a result, unless you double check, you may not know whether the vehicle is in Park or Drive. Further, on some cars, a separate button on the column shifter has to be pressed to engage Park.

    This is the setup on my wife’s car. Switching back and forth between different cars is where I could see an issue. I have been pretty good with remembering to double check that my wife’s vehicle is in Park when driving it, but my daily driver has an old-fashioned center console shifter with a gated shift pattern.

    Even though it robs precious cupholder space to house a large McDonald’s soda and loose change, why can’t automakers just leave this basic safety procedure as fool proof as possible?

    • 0 avatar
      orenwolf

      Yeah.

      That design just invites mistakes. “Did I push up enough times?” Is silly.

      I’m also ok with the (old?) Prius dedicated park button, though. No ambiguity there.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    How to lose sales, put a rotary shifter in there. How dumb. Audi just did this with the 2017 A4, stopped me from buying it.

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    On pre-1966 Mopars with push-button shift, to put the transmission in Park you selected Neutral, then slid a lever across which engaged the parking pawl in the transmission. There was no mistaking the action which resulted in Park.

    Similarly, perhaps Park should be engaged by a separate button, instead of just one of the selections on the rotary dial. Make it a distinct action that can’t be mistaken for something else, to prevent human error.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      On a Prius, you can simply…turn the car off. That’s right, just hit the Power button.

      Voila. The car (a) goes into park, and (b) turns off.

      Of course, you can independently put it into park while the car is on. But you cannot independently turn the car off while it’s in park. Cannot happen. Car manages itself. “Off? Oh, OK. Park, then.” Easy. Simple.

      So with keyless ignition, one should be able to simply hit that power button and the car should know what to do. Toyota has known that for…how many years now?

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I simply do not understand why these rotary selectors and return-to-center shifters are the New Thing That Must Be Implemented.

    The most intuitive and satisfying automatic interface to me is the simple lever traveling through a linear path. Some, like the Infiniti G37, had very positive detents with a very short travel path and I fail to understand why that isn’t good enough.

    I can see rotaries replacing column shifters, though. Those are terrible.

    I don’t like clunky gated shifters either and my Toyota has one.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      LOL, everybody likes different things. Several people have said that they love column shifters. You hate them. Someone said that a gated shifter is best. You say a non-gated shifter is best. In my household there are 2 vehicles with column shifters, 1 “linear” console shift and one 5-speed stick, and I love driving them all.

      I recently drove a RAM1500 with the rotary shifter for about a month. One time I accidentally cranked up the HVAC blower to full when I meant to put it into Drive, so I can understand when someone complains that the rotary knob isn’t distinct enough from the other control knobs when you’re not paying attention. It wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me though.

      Once the novelty wore off, I didn’t find the shifter frustrating, and not at all difficult to find Park. I had bigger beefs with other design elements in the new RAM, such as the layout of the buttons on the steering wheel and the user interface of the stereo (uConnect 5.0 I think?).

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I know, it’s amusing isn’t it? That I care enough to squawk about it is probably even more so.

        I am getting the general impression that the joystick return-to-center shifter is largely unloved here though.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          It’s not just that they’re unloved, but no one asked for rotary shifters or monostable sticks. OEMs took to them on their own, in the name of faster/easier assembly with almost no mechanical/moving parts.

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    So far in both FCA and this latest investigation, people claim that they confirmed the shifter was in the Park position yet the vehicle rolled away anyhow. IF they are telling the truth, then there is some kind of a defect, either in design or manufacture. That has yet to be determined one way or the other.

    In the previous FCA monostable shifter investigation, the shifter was actually supplied by ZF. The Land Rover Evoque uses a ZF 9-speed automatic, and the Jag XF uses the ZF 8-speed. It’s likely that ZF actually manufactures the rotary dial shifter mechanisms for affected FCA, Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles. It’s possible that they all have a common defect, either mechanical or in software.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Clearly they exited the cars without engaging “Park”, or “driver error” as it’s called. The point is, it’s only happening to cars or brands without an auto-park feature, software, for the rotary shifter or monostable stick.

  • avatar
    nationalminer84

    I have a ram 1500. 2015 model, its NOT HARD. inattentive drivers! it took me literally 2-3 weeks and it was second nature.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    OEMs that don’t have an auto-park feature, in conjunction with the rotary shifter, really screwed the pooch on this little oversight.

    Mercedes, BMW, Ford and others with rotary shifters will slam the trans into “Park” when you attempt to exit, not in “Park”. This feature is really annoying when trying inch a car into a space/spot, and open the door to look at where the tires are, in relation to curbs and stripes, but the feature is obviously there for a very good reason. Drivers will eventually screw up, especially when it’s new to them, not their car, borrowed, valet, etc.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The J-Gate was a glorious shifter.

    I’ve never cared for the rising knob.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I know I’m late to the party, but what was the problem with the conventional automatic shifter? Too much effort? Too much space? Not futuristic enough?

  • avatar
    Hydromatic

    The rotary shift dial is an elegant piece of design, but I’m not surprise how it’s gone down with inattentive drivers who are used to slamming their cars into Park with balky and bulky shift levers.

    Perhaps the best thing for FCA to do is simply emulate what Toyota and BMW do w/r/t their shifters — automatic Park feature when you 1)open the door and 2)shut off the vehicle. If you need Neutral for some reason, hold down an override button.

    Automakers need to realize that some drivers desperately need someone to hold their hand through all of this stuff and act accordingly. In other words, assume drivers are complete morons and guide them accordingly.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “In other words, assume drivers are complete morons and guide them accordingly.”

      Gated floor or console shifters did this already. You could make a very short gated shifter that took up only a little more room than a knob, and it was obvious what “state” the driveline was in. It would even work when the indicator (if there was one) was broken.

      This was a problem that we’d already solved and didn’t need replacement with an inferior solution, regardless of the relative intelligence of the driver.

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    Moving from a manual to automatic gearboxed cars, it is force of habit to pull the handbrake (E-brake / parking brake / whatever you want to call it) when parking up. (Manual / stick would usually be left in neutral – at least before starting again, the handbrake prevents movement).

  • avatar
    carl0s

    I don’t know if JLR changed it on the 8spd xf (mines a 2014 which is when they gave the 8spd to the v8 cars, but I think the standard cars got the 8spd a year or two earlier), but I’m sure mine puts itself in park, and it might even automatically apply the parking brake.

    What I do not like though is that you can slam it into P by accident when clicking between D and R, especially if you sometimes use S, so the amount of rotating needed isn’t always the same. There should be programming to prevent entry into P while moving. I’ve been inside a 6hp26 and a 5hp19 and that parking pin is only a little thing pushing into the output shaft drum or something and I worry it could shear off.

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