Parking brake confusion sparks move by firm
Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 1.1 million cars and SUVs worldwide because drivers cannot tell if they’ve put the vehicles in park.
The confusion can increase the risk of a rollaway accident.
The recall covers the 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans and the 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV.
Fiat Chrysler, known as FCA, is recalling 811,586 vehicles in the United States, 52,144 vehicles in Canada; 16,805 in Mexico; and 248,667 outside North America.
The vehicles have an electronic shift lever that moves forward or backward to let the driver select the gear instead of moving along a track. A light shows which gear is selected, but to get from ‘drive’ to ‘park’, drivers must push the lever forward three times.
The vehicles sound a chime and issues a dashboard warning if the driver’s door is opened while they aren’t in ‘park’.
But the push-button ignition doesn’t shut off the engine, increasing the risk of the vehicles rolling away after drivers have exited.
FCA said it’s aware of 41 injuries potentially related to the problem.
The US government opened an investigation into the vehicles in February after receiving reports that they were rolling away when they were supposed to be parked.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that the shift lever “is not intuitive and provides poor tactile feedback to the driver,” according to documents posted on the agency’s website.
The agency had at least 121 reports of crashes related to the issue.
USA Today published some of the complaints sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
One owner in Walton, Indiana, said he left his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee running when dropping off a DVD when he thought he had pushed the shifter in the right direction. “My 23-year-old son was in the passenger seat and yelled out, ‘Dad, the car is moving,’” he wrote.
“I jumped back in and put my foot on the brake and watched the shift indicator as I slowly moved the shifter up so it indicated ‘park’.”
Another driver from Rochester Hills in Michigan said he was confused about whether the vehicle was in reverse.
“Intending to back into my driveway, I shifted into reverse,” the complaint read. “The vehicle was not in reverse and crashed into the vehicle that was parked ... across the street.”
One expert, Sean Kane of Safety Research and Strategies, a firm that researches car-safety issues, told USA Today: “It’s a high number of injuries.
“I think it’s a complete lack of humanfactors engineering and a lack of built-in fail-safes.”
Owners will be notified about the recall, the company said. Dealers will update the shifters so the vehicles won’t move once the driver has exited.
They will also add enhanced warning signals. FCA says customers should carefully follow the instructions for operating their shifters until their vehicles are repaired.
FCA changed the shifter design on the Charger and the 300 in the 2015 model year. It changed the Grand Cherokee’s shifter in the 2016 model.