The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the shifters in thousands of Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge vehicles.
A preliminary investigation was opened on about 400,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees after drivers alleged that the vehicles would roll away after the vehicle was put in Park. Now, NHTSA has doubled the number of vehicles involved, spread over three brands, and says that the issue is caused by the confusing nature of this particular gear shifter.
A total of 314 roll-away reports have been received by NHTSA, with 121 crashes and 30 injuries attributed to the issue. Rather than a mechanical defect, this issue is cause by the shifter’s design and driver error.
The shift lever in these vehicles is like a large joystick which you push forwards or backwards to change gears, though it always returns back to center. There are no gates between the gears, and the overall range of motion is so small that you have to be precise with the shifter to find the right spot.
NHTSA notes that the shifter is “not intuitive” and that it offers “poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.”
In 2015, FCA changed the design of this shifter in the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300, while the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s shifter was changed for 2016.
No recalls have been announced, but the agency’s investigation could end up with one, although the fix for this problem is unclear.