Earlier this year, federal regulators accused Jeep (and parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) of producing a baffling gear-shifter design for its eight-speed automatic transmission in the Grand Cherokee. Although the recall was issued some months ago, it’s received new attention after actor Anton Yelchin was killed by a Grand Cherokee equipped with the transmission in question. It’s alleged that the Grand Cherokee was in neutral when officials discovered Yelchin.
Safety regulators should have caught on when Jeep’s shifter how-to video described the lever as “a little different.” Chrysler’s own user video guide used the same verbiage. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there have been over 100 incidents, some with injuries, possibly related to the shifter. In models produced subsequent to the 2015 model year, Jeep has fitted a more traditional shift lever, while Chrysler has installed an equally confusing rotary gearshift knob.
Here’s what we know about the recall:
The cars affected: Jeep Grand Cherokee (2014–2015), Dodge Charger (2012–2014), and Chrysler 300 (2012–2014). On Thursday, it was announced Maserati will recall up to 13,000 of its Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans that have similar issues. In total, over 1 million vehicles produced with the shifter are subject to this recall. The recall doesn’t cover the Dodge Charger Pursuit police car, which uses a column shifter.
The problem: The electronic gearshift returns to its original position after clicked into gear, without a physical indication of which gear is selected. Some drivers have exited their cars without having selected “park,” leaving the cars unstable and vulnerable to rolling out of place.
The fix: Quickly approaching. In a letter sent to owners, FCA promised to have a solution by the end of 2016, but on Wednesday, FCA said that revised software, which will automatically shift into “park” when the driver’s door is open and the transmission is in N or D, is ready. FCA advises drivers to “always do a visual check that your vehicle is in ‘PARK’” and “always fully apply the parking brake before exiting the vehicle.” We say: Always apply the parking brake as a failsafe.
Want to see if you’re covered by the recall? Click here and enter your VIN.