If you’ve kept up with the recalls in recent months and weeks, you’re familiar with the Jeep recall regarding the monostable E-shift gear shifter. Fiat Chrysler issued a recall for the awkward shifter assembly that just isn’t intuitive to use, just two months before it killed someone. That someone was actor Anton Yelchin.
Best known for his role on the Star Trek reboot, Yelchin was a strapping young dude. On the weekend, he was able to get out of his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee while it was still in gear. Somehow, he managed to get behind the Jeep and it began to roll. It ended up pinning Anton between the back of the Jeep and the security fence-slash-pillar, mortally wounding the actor. From the sounds of it, he passed away rather quickly from the trauma.
The Jeep shifter issue is actually not a defect at all. It’s been analyzed by the NHTSA who determined the system isn’t easy to use but isn’t defective. The electronic shifter uses a knob that always springs back to a central position so it’s possible that the driver won’t notice when they mistakenly engage the wrong gear and exit the car. That is, IF they don’t hear the dinging inside the car and IF they don’t read the message on the cluster and IF they don’t notice the engine is still running. (the design doesn’t allow the engine to turn off when ‘Park’ is not engaged)
Alongside Anton Yelchin, several serious injuries have occurred and hundreds of complaints have been launched. In February 2016, the NHTSA investigated, then cleared FCA. Fiat Chrysler issued a voluntary recall on 1.1 million vehicles including 2012-2014 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300 sedans and Jeep Grand Cherokees up to 2015 to address the complaints.