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Fiat Chrysler Rollaway Reports Draw Stepped-Up Regulatory Probe

February 7, 2016

Federal regulators are escalating an inquiry over complaints that certain Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV vehicles can roll away when a driver thinks the transmission has been set to park.

The probe into three Fiat Chrysler models affects about 856,300 cars, according to a document filed by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation. The rollaway car incidents resulted in 121 alleged crashes, according to the document, with 30 leading to reported injuries.


The majority of complaints centered upon the 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, while the other models involved were the 2012-2014 Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger with 3.6-liter engine. The regulatory inquiry expands a probe opened in August addressing 14 complaints that 2014-15 Grand Cherokee vehicles had rolled away after a driver intended to park them.

An engineering analysis was opened “to assess the scope, frequency and safety-related consequences of the alleged defect," according to the document.

More than 300 complaints about rollaway problems have been reported to regulators and the manufacturer, according to the document. The cars have an electronic gearshift made by ZF Group that may not provide drivers with clear enough feedback in all cases about the gear they’re in, according to the document.

"We’re fully co-operating with the investigation," Eric Mayne, a spokesman for Fiat Chrysler, said in a phone interview.

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Feds: Fiat Chrysler gear shifters can confuse drivers

02/08/2016


The Grand Cherokees use a ZF Group Monostable electronic gear shift assembly that springs back into a neutral position after drivers select a gear and release the shifter. NHTSA’s testing found that the electronic gear shifter is “not intuitive” and offers “poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.”

If a driver opens his or her door when the gearshift isn’t in park, a chime rings and a message pops up to alert them that the transmission is not in park.

The engine also will not turn off normally without the transmission in park. However, this function does not protect drivers who intentionally leave the engine running or those who do not realize that the engine is still running after they tried to turn it off, NHTSA says.

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