April 23, 2016, 10:30 PM
Scant days after recalling 27,000 cargo vans for an electrical connector problem that could lead to transmission shift problems, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is recalling an estimated 1.1 million vehicles to address another problem with automatic transmission shifts.
The recall applies to 2012-14 full-size Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans, and 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicles. Over 810,000 of the recalled products are in the US (811,586), 52,144 are in Canada, 16,805 in Mexico, and 248,667 outside North America.
FCA says it is recalling the vehicles to reduce the effect of driver error resulting from drivers exiting the vehicle without checking to ensure it is in Park. That could prove a safety risk if the vehicle’s engine is still running (in which case, it will drive the wheels).
The company is aware of 41 injuries arising from the circumstances, and under an investigation by both FCA and the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it was found that the vehicles inspected had no evidence of mechanical failure.
Rather, it is believed that drivers exited the vehicles after attempting to shift into Park without the electronic transmission registering the shift. Shift levers in the sedans were changed for the 2015 model year, those of the SUV were changed for 2016.
An investigation by FCA US and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found some drivers have exited their vehicles without first selecting “PARK.” Such behavior may pose a safety risk if a vehicle’s engine is still running. Unlike mechanical shift levers, the electronic shifter returns to a neutral position after a shift. The shift and gear selected is demonstrated to the driver via an array of lights and displays. If the driver is inattentive or complacent about the shift, he/she may believe the gear desired was selected when it wasn’t.
Although warning chimes sounds and alert messages are displayed when a door is opened and the transmission isn’t in Park or Neutral, it is feared they may not be strong enough to draw the driver’s attention.
The company hopes to lessen the effect of potential error by enhancing the warnings and changing the transmission shift strategy, so the vehicle will not move in certain circumstances, even if Park is not selected.
Affected customers will be notified by mail to bring their vehicles in for service, but in the interim, they are asked to carefully follow the procedures outlined in their vehicles’ owner’s manuals. Potentially affected owners can call FCA US Customer Care Center at (800) 853-1403.
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