Fiat Chrysler has issued a major voluntary recall of several types of vehicles under the Jeep, Chrysler, and Dodge brands. The recall, issued in April, has been all over the news recently, so we have put together a list of four important things you should know about this issue:
1) Why is this recall getting so much press?
Prominent actor Anton Yelchin—whom you may recognize as the character ‘Chekov’ from the recent Star Trek movie reboots—was recently killed when his Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled down his driveway and pinned him against his security gate. Due to his career, Mr. Yelchin is a high-profile individual, thus his death has shined a bright spotlight on the Fiat Chrysler recall issued in April. Though the investigation is ongoing, many allege that the vehicle was likely not properly placed in park due to the very problem for which the recall was issued: a gear-shifter that makes it very unclear whether or not the vehicle is in park or drive. Though numerous crashes, injuries, and claims of property damage attributed to the gear-shifter issue have been made to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Yelchin would be the first death attributed to the gear-shifter if it is ultimately determined to be the cause of the incident.
2) What exactly is the issue?
Several newer model Fiat Chrysler vehicles have installed an electronic gear-shifter known as the Monostable. The shifter does not operate in the same manner as most of the automatic gear-shifters that you are probably used to. According to the NHTSA, the “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.” This means it is difficult to both see and feel that the car has shifted into the desired gear. This has resulted in people accidentally leaving the vehicle in “Drive” when they intended to leave it in “Park,” allowing the vehicle to roll forward or backward and potentially causing damage and injuries. Other vehicles not owned by Fiat Chrysler also utilize the Monostable shifter—such as some Audi models—but in these cases the companies installed safety features such as automatic engagement of the parking brake when the driver attempts to exit the vehicle while it is in drive. Fiat Chrysler installed no such safety features in its cars.
3) Which vehicles are affected?
The Fiat Chrysler recall for the confusing gear-shifter includes 1.1 million cars from around the world, including over 800,000 in the United States. Models affected include:
- 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers
- 2012-2014 Chrysler 300 sedans
- 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees
4) What does this mean?
It remains to be seen what type of legal action may result from this issue. Fiat Chrysler has been working to roll out a software patch that will help prevent accidents occurring as a result of confusion over the gear-shifter, but many people have been dissatisfied with what has been perceived as the automaker’s slow response to the problem. Fixes are not yet available for every model of vehicle mentioned above or at every dealership that sells the vehicles, though Fiat Chrysler says it has been trying to expedite the roll-out and have fixes available for any owners of these cars by the fourth quarter of 2016.
If you own any of the aforementioned Fiat Chrysler vehicles involved in the recall, you should be extremely cautious when shifting gears. You should also contact your local dealer and have your VIN ready to see if you are eligible for the repair, the cost of which will be covered by Fiat Chrysler. It is important to note that the recall was voluntary, but keep an eye out for pending class-action lawsuits or other legal action against the automaker.
If you have questions about this recall or you have been the victim of illicit or dangerous consumer practices, whether involving your vehicle or any other product, please contact Bell Law today to learn how we can help!