So you think your car is in park? Double back and check again.
Car And Driver points out that this past summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a preliminary investigation into just over 400,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees, after some owners alleged their vehicles would roll away after being shifted into Park.
NHTSA has since more than doubled the number of Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler vehicles being investigated.
And the agency now blames the problems on a confusing shifter design that doesn’t adequately indicate to drivers that they haven’t engaged Park.
NHTSA is conducting an engineering analysis on more than 856,000 Fiat Chrysler vehicles.
The agency has received reports of 314 roll-away incidents, involving 121 crashes and 30 injuries, caused when drivers exited a vehicle after they thought they’d shifted into Park.
And while the initial investigation treated the issue as a mechanical defect, it’s looking more and more like the problem has at least something to do with driver error due to a poorly designed shifter.
The investigation involves 3.6-liter V-6–powered 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees, 2012–2014 Dodge Chargers, and 2012–2014 Chrysler 300s—all of which use a push-button console shift lever that looks like a traditional PRNDL shifter.
But in operation, the electronic shifter works more like a joystick, returning to its center position once you’ve selected your gear.
There is no gate around the shifter; the lever itself moves through somewhat subtle detents, and the whole range of motion is incredibly short compared to a traditional mechanical shifter, perhaps two or three inches from end to end.
Read more here.