Earlier this month, Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin was killed when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee pinned him between a fence and a mailbox pillar. The accident is being blamed on a confusing gear shifter in the vehicle. In response to Yelchin’s accident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted an investigation into the gear shifters on Fiat Chrysler vehicles and found a total of 266 crashes, injuring 68 people. Since the investigation, Fiat Chrysler has recalled 1.1 million vehicles. Contact a Boston Defective Products Lawyer Today.
In addition to the 266 crashes, investigators also found 686 shifter-related complaints and negative customer feedback that began almost immediately following the release of the vehicles. According to the agency, Fiat Chrysler also appears to have violated standard design guidelines with the shifters.
So, What’s the Trouble with the Gear Shifters?
On Yelchin’s Jeep and others like it, it is difficult for drivers to determine if the vehicle is in “park” once they have stopped. There are several reports of vehicles rolling off once the driver exited. In newer models, a warning chime goes off and an alert message is displayed if the driver’s door is opened while the car is not in park. In a recently released statement, Fiat Chrysler urged customers to use parking brakes as an added precaution. In fact, the manufacturer mailed out letters with these instructions on May 14. Whether or not Yelchin received such a letter is not known
Too Little, Too Late
Since Yelchin’s death, Fiat Chrysler has stepped up its efforts to prevent future accidents. Beginning on June 24, the company began sending letters to owners advising them to make an appointment for service as soon as possible. Dealers will be able to resolve the dangerous design flaw by loading a new software into recalled vehicles. This software will automatically shift the vehicles into park when the driver’s door opens while the engine is running. The updates will fix 3.6-liter and 5.7 liter engine vehicles, which account for the majority of the recalls. Fiat Chrysler assures us that a fix for the remaining vehicles will be available soon. Continue reading