By Sepehr Daghighian
FCA US LLC (“FCA”), the United States distributor of Chrysler, Fiat, Dodge, Ram, Jeep, Maserati, and other automobiles, is facing increased scrutiny and multiple class-action lawsuits arising from is dangerous and defective “monostable” gear shifter installed in over 800,000 vehicles. According to CCA’s investigations, the monostable gear shifters, designed and manufactured by ZF Friedrichshafen AG (“ZF”), departed from the long-established “PRNDL” gear selector in favor a system that always moves back to a central location after being engaged (the “FCA Shifter”).
The FCA Shifter differs from traditional shifters in a number of ways:
- First, the shifter is “monostable,” which means that whether it is pushed up or down the shifter always goes back to the same position.
- While FCA gives a visual indication of the gear, the lever itself lacks tactile feedback making it hard to feel which gear you’re in. This is a big departure from traditional shifters, which provide tactile feedback to the driver so that they know what gear they are in.
- Unlike traditional shifters, drivers have to push up to get into reverse and down for drive. This system is unintuitive and confusion. Also, the “clicks” between gears are difficult to detect, so oftentimes, drivers end up in a different gear than the gear that they thought they were in.
Much more than a mere annoyance or inconvenience, the FCA Shifter creates a serious safety risk and danger for FCA vehicle owners. Already, well over 300 accidents and vehicle rollaways have been reported, including many that resulted in serious injuries. Potentially, the famous actor Anton Yelchin was crushed to death by his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee when it rolled down his driveway and pinned him against his mailbox. Many other 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee owners have complained of similar unexpected vehicle rollaways.
In August 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) opened an investigation into the FCA shifters. NHTSA states that, to date, there are over 300 incidents of Jeep Grand Cherokees rolling away after owners believed the SUVs were shifted into “Park.” The 300+ rollaway incidents resulted in 117 alleged crashes and 28 injuries. Those injuries include pelvic fractures, broken kneecaps, a ruptured bladder, busted ribs, sprained knees, trauma to the legs, lacerations to the face and various other injuries. Later the NHTSA investigation and subsequent recall by FCA was expanded to include several other vehicles.
According to CCA’ investigations, vehicles affected by the dangerous and defective FCA Shifter include:
- 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers;
- 2012-2014 Chrysler 300’s, and
- 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees.
In April of 2016, FCA belatedly issued a recall of Chargers, 300’s, and Grand Cherokees with respect to the defective FCA Shifter. In recall documents filed with NHTSA, FCA admits in that the drivers of their vehicles were prone to believe that the vehicles were in park when, in fact, they were not. However, the “band-aid” approach taken by FCA in the recall limited the scope of its recall to address only rollaway incidents that occur when a driver exits a vehicle believing that it is in park. FCA failed to (and continues to fail to) address the generally defective and confusing nature of the FCA Shifter. Thus, FCA drivers continue to suffer through erroneous shifts, confusion about which gear they are in, distractions, missed shifts, and other transmission problems arising from the defective FCA Shifter.
If you own a Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler or other vehicle and have suffered through problems with your transmission shifting mechanism, we invite you to call a Lemon Law expert at CCA for a free consultation: (833) LEMON-FIRM.