FCA recalls 811K vehicles after 41 injuries

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said Friday it’s recalling 811,586 midsize SUVs and full-size cars in the U.S. because of confusing electronic gear shifters that can lead to drivers exiting vehicles they think are in park but are not.

The Auburn Hills automaker said it’s aware of 41 injuries that have resulted from vehicles that have moved unintentionally, including fractured pelvises, kneecaps, broken ribs, broken noses and severe bruising. FCA spokesman Eric Mayne said it does not have a precise number of crashes linked to the issue because it believes some were counted twice. Problems have occurred while the engine is running and when it’s turned off.

In each case, Fiat Chrysler said the vehicles involved were inspected and no evidence of equipment failure was found.

The affected vehicles include 2012-14 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans and 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The recall includes 52,144 vehicles in Canada, 16,805 in Mexico and 248,667 outside the North American region.

An investigation by Fiat Chrysler and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found hundreds of drivers complaining of cars rolling away.

The shifters in question 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 said.

NHTSA’s testing have found that the electronic gear shifter is “not intuitive” and offers “poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.”

Fiat Chrysler changed the shifter design for the Charger and 300 in model-year 2015, and for the Grand Cherokee in model-year 2016.

The automaker says it will add additional warning signals an undetermined mechanical fix to help ensure the vehicles are in park. Owners will be notified when service becomes available.

Fiat Chrysler is referring customers to the owner’s manual, which says “before exiting a vehicle, always apply the parking brake, shift the transmission into park and turn the engine off.”


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