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FCA to probe Jeep in actor’s death as soon as possible

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Chelsea — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will launch its own investigation into the recalled sport utility vehicle involved in the death of “Star Trek” actor Anton Yelchin as soon as possible, according to head of Jeep Mike Manley.

The company, he said, has not been able to analyze the 2015 Grand Cherokee involved in the fatal accident but hopes to be able to have its team look at the vehicle, which was a part of a recall of 1.1 million car and trucks globally due to gear shifters that can confuse drivers.

“We will, as soon as possible, carry out our full investigation,” he said during a media event on Thursday. “Until that stage, obviously, there’s a huge amount of speculation on what may or may not happen. I’m not entirely sure that’s useful at this moment and time.

“We need to get through the normal investigation process. Until that point, as I said, I think there’s been enough speculation.”

Yelchin died Sunday when his Grand Cherokee pinned him against a mailbox pillar and security fence at his Los Angeles-area home. It has not been determined if the shifter contributed to the fatal accident.

Manley extended his “deepest sympathies” to the family and friends of the 27-year-old actor, a rising star best known for playing Chekov in the rebooted “Star Trek” series.

The vehicles were recalled following an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that identified more than 306 incidents of Grand Cherokees rolling away after the drivers intended to shift the vehicle into park. Of those incidents, there were 117 alleged crashes, 28 of which reportedly involved injuries — including three fractured pelvises.

Manley said a fix for the vehicles will be available at dealerships by month’s end.

The company, in a statement Wednesday, said it began ramping-up a fix for the recall since May and the first dealerships began receiving the remedy last month — before the actor’s death.

“Such advance planning is critical to efficient customer care and represents an acceleration — by several months — of the originally anticipated service launch,” the company said. “This acceleration began in May and continues currently.”

The software fix for the affected vehicles includes warnings with a transmission-shift strategy to automatically prevent a vehicle from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to select “PARK.”

The original recall from April involved 1.1 million 2012-14 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300 sedans and 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokees

mwayland@detroitnews.com

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