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Driver Errors Causing a Recall

05.25.16 - 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The gear selector used in a number of FCA models from 2014 and 2015 is nothing more than a small joystick type of lever with the selected gear lighting up. This particular gear shifter is pretty cool and feels more like an advanced version of technology than most others, but there seems to be a problem with the shifter. Actually the problem seems to be in the drivers of these vehicles who can’t find Park when they need to and have had some accidents because the vehicle was not properly put into the Park position before the driver or a passenger exited the vehicle.

The gear selector lever is one that is made by ZF and is not currently in use, but is in place in 811,586 vehicles on the road today. This lever returns to the central position after a gear is selected, similar to a joystick on a video game console. For the most part this should make for an intuitive selection, but this seems to cause issues. Because of the small range of motion for the selector and the indicator being placed on the shift lever it seems some drivers aren’t paying close enough attention to the gear they are in when they actually want to be in the Park position.

This may bring up a question of whether or not there are other warnings when the door is opened and the vehicle is not in Park, much like other vehicles will do. There are actually other warnings to tell a driver their car is not in Park when a door is opened. These include the fact the engine cannot be turned off when in gear and the instrument cluster will chime and signal alerts to let you as the driver know the car is not on Park, but it seems many drivers are ignoring this warning.

So far as we can tell there have been as many as 41 injuries because of rollaway incidents when the vehicle is not placed in Park. According to the NHTSA, because the design is not intuitive enough the feedback given to a driver is inadequate for drivers to know whether or not their vehicles are in Park. While this seems a bit ridiculous considering the fact there are warnings that sound off when a door is opened and the car is not in Park FCA has devised a response and will recall all the affected vehicles.

The plan to fix this problem is to add more urgent warning chimes and dashboard displays to alert the driver the fact the car is not in Park. There will also be transmission software installed to prevent a vehicle from moving when in idle, even if Park is not selected. Even though these errors were not mechanical in nature and completely the fault of the drivers who were otherwise distracted from the fact their vehicle wasn’t in the proper gear for them to exit the vehicle FCA will take measures to help prevent future accidents in these vehicles and no longer uses this gear selector in their vehicles.

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