Monday, April 25, 2016

Fiat-Chrysler Recalls 811,000 Sedans and SUVs for Poor Shifter Design


German transmission supplier ZF has taken a lot of flack for its rough-shifting, occasionally misbehaving nine-speed automatic across multiple automakers. Now comes word that the shifter it designed and supplied to some automakers who use its eight-speed automatic transmission has caused injuries and crashes, resulting in a large recall.

After an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fiat-Chrysler is recalling 811,586 vehicles to update the transmission software and include more visual warnings and chimes that the vehicles are not in park. All 2012–2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans and 2014–2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee models are included (the police Charger used a column shifter to free up console space). FCA says it knows of at least 41 related injuries, while NHTSA—which had been investigating the cars since August 2015—has recorded at least 314 complaints of rollaways, 121 crashes, and 30 injuries.

2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack

The defect here is entirely design-related, in that the shifter always returns to the same position and has very small detents that make it difficult to distinguish between gear selections; it’s an issue with which we expressed frustration in reviews of multiple vehicles with this design. FCA recently replaced the shifter with a more traditional PRNDL lever (pictured above) that has separate stops for each gear, a change made effective for the 2015 model year on Charger and 300 sedans and for the 2016 model year on Grand Cherokee SUVs. The Audi A8 uses the exact same shifter and is not under a recall or investigation at this time.

FCA will not replace the shifters with the current design. Instead, the fix 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,’ ” according to FCA. This likely will include switching to park when the driver’s door is open and the engine is running, for example. Another 317,616 cars are affected outside the U.S.

from Car and Driver Blog

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