A recall of over 800,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 vehicles was initiated on April 22 of this year because, in Chrysler’s words:
“Drivers erroneously concluding that their vehicle’s transmission is in the PARK position may be struck by the vehicle and injured if they attempt to get out of the vehicle while the engine is running and the parking brake is not engaged” (April 22 Notice).
Owners of these vehicles were not notified of the recall or the safety risk on that date. In fact, an amended recall notice submitted by Chrysler (FCA US) on May 24 stated, “Description of Recall Schedule: Timing is estimated to be July/August 2016. FCA US will provide a dealer notification and owner notification schedule once established” (May 24 Notice). This means as of May 24, 2016, there was not even a dealer or owner notification schedule.
At the time of the April notice, 41 injuries had been reported, including “3 with a fractured pelvis and 4 others requiring some degree of hospitalization (a ruptured bladder, fractured kneecap, broken ribs, damaged to right leg). Other injuries include reports of a broken nose, facial lacerations requiring stitches, sprained knees, severe bruising, and trauma to legs” (NHTSA Feb. 3, 2016 Investigation Report).
On June 19, 2016, a young man was killed when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee “pinned him against a brick mailbox pillar and a security fence in his driveway” (ABC News). His vehicle was one of the 800,000+ recalled.
The specific vehicles recalled by Chrysler included model year 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 vehicles manufactured February 15, 2011, to November 27, 2014, and 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles manufactured July 16, 2012, to December 22, 2015.
The Recall Investigation
The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened Preliminary Evaluation PE15-030 on August 20, 2015, to investigate 14 complaints alleging incidents of rollaway after intended shifts to Park in Model Year (MY) 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles.
The MY 2014-2015 Grand Cherokee vehicles are equipped with Monostable electronic (“E-shift”) gearshift assemblies supplied by ZF Group (ZF). The NHTSA investigation report stated that “NHTSA testing during PE15-030 indicates that operation of the Monostable shifter is not intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.”
The process for ensuring the vehicle in park is involved: Electronic Shifter Quick Reference Information to Engage Park.
How the Monostable Electronic Gearshift Works
The following is from the NHTSA investigation report:
The E-shift system operates electronically and the gear requested by the driver is transmitted from the shifter via the CAN Bus to the Transmission Control Module which makes the requested shift. The Monostable gearshift does not move into a detent but springs back to a centered/neutral position after the driver selects a gear and releases the shifter. A button on the shift knob must be depressed to shift out of Park, shift out of Neutral, and to shift from Drive to Reverse or Park. The gear selected is shown on a display in the dash and illuminated letters on the shifter.
If the driver’s door is opened when the gearshift is not in Park, a chime sounds and a message is displayed on the EVIC to warn the driver. In addition, the engine Start/Stop push-button control logic does not permit normal engine shut-off when the transmission is not in Park. This logic may provide feedback to drivers who attempt to turn the engine off when the transmission is not in Park. However, this function does not protect drivers who intentionally leave the engine running or drivers who do not recognize that the engine continues to run after an attempted shut-off.
ODI’s analysis of the PE15-030 complaint and field report data identified 306 incidents of vehicle rollaway following intended shifts to Park in the 2014-2015 Grand Cherokee. These resulted in 117 alleged crashes. Twenty-eight of the crashes reportedly caused injuries, including MY 2012-2014 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger vehicles (L-cars) equipped with 3.6L engines use the same ZF Monostable shifter. ODI has received 8 complaints, including 4 crashes and 2 injuries on the subject L-cars. FCA changed the shifter design in the L-cars in MY 2015 and in the Grand Cherokee vehicles in MY 2016.
Chrysler (FCA US LLC) is recalling certain model year 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 vehicles manufactured February 15, 2011, to November 27, 2014, and 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles manufactured July 16, 2012, to December 22, 2015. The affected vehicles, equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a monostable gear selector, may not adequately warn the driver when driver’s door is opened and the vehicle is not in PARK, allowing them to exit the vehicle while the vehicle is still in gear.
Drivers thinking that their vehicle’s transmission is in the PARK position may be struck by the vehicle and injured if they attempt to get out of the vehicle while the engine is running and the parking brake is not engaged.
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- April 22, 2016 Recall Notice from Chrysler to NHTSA: http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/acms/cs/jaxrs/download/doc/UCM514210/RCLRPT-16V240-3644.PDF
- May 24, 2016 Recall Notice from Chrysler to NHTSA: http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/acms/cs/jaxrs/download/doc/UCM521985/RCLRPT-16V240-2095.PDF
- Search for Recalls: http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/owners/SearchSafetyIssues