Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has recalled more than 1.1 million cars with automatic transmissions due to a design quirk in the way the shifter operates.
FCA’s ‘rocker’ style automatic T-bar selector is self-centering which removes the visual clue as to its selected position, causing some drivers to leave their vehicles without selecting 'park', despite a dashboard visual and audible warning.
This leaves the vehicle in danger of rolling. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported 121 crashes involving rolling vehicles after drivers have exited, with as many as 41 injuries resulting.
To further complicate matters, the rocker-style shifter is accompanied in some models by a floor-mounted, foot-operated park brake, which can also be ‘forgotten’ by some drivers as they depart.
Three of the 41 reported injured suffered pelvic fractures, while four others also required hospitalisation.
Investigations by America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found the automatic shifter design had contributed to the injury count, and that the warning messages and chimes were not having the desired effect.
“[The investigations] suggested these measures may be insufficient to deter some drivers from exiting their vehicles without selecting ‘Park’, so FCA US will enhance the warnings and transmission-shift strategy on these vehicles,” FCA said in a statement.
“The enhancements will combine warnings with a transmission-shift strategy to automatically prevent a vehicle from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to select ‘Park’.”
The NHTSA reported 314 complaints over the FCA transmission. FCA has moved quickly to institute a fix that will prevent vehicles from moving, even when a driver fails to leave the vehicle in park.
The recall, however, involving so many cars, will likely take some considerable time. In the meantime, Fiat Chrysler has adviced owners to familiarise themselves with the correct parking procedure.
The recall will no doubt include FCA models in Australia, but local details for the recall are yet to be finalised. Stay tuned to TMR for more.