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NHTSA Investigates Fiat Chrysler Over Dodge “Roll-Away” Threat

Vehicle Recalls, Vehicle Recall Alerts, NHTSA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fiat Chrysler

NHTSA Investigates 1 Million Dodge Vehicles Over “Roll-Away” Threat

For the second time this year Fiat-Chrysler is under investigation by the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA) over alleged incidents of vehicle “roll-aways.” U.S. authorities have once again found that the problems stem from the electronic transmission gear selectors, which have replaced traditional gear-shifters in the majority of new cars. This transition, from a traditional shifter to an electronic version, has come with a dangerous learning curve for drivers who are not accustomed to the new technology. But even when the transmission is put into park, the car can still allegedly roll off without a driver behind the wheel.

The NHTSA is currently probing 1 million Dodge vehicles, which are owned by Fiat-Chrysler. The agency is inspecting 2013 to 2016 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup trucks and 2014 to 2016 Dodge Durango SUVs after 43 reported “roll-aways” led to 25 accidents and nine injuries. The NHTSA also announced a separate analysis of about 39,000 Land Rover Evoque SUVs and Jaguar XF sedans, which have also been reported to “roll-away” unintentionally. Four injuries have been connected to the Jaguar Land Rover investigation, including one individual who was pinned to a garage door. The NHTSA said both inquiries are in a “preliminary evaluation phase.”

These latest “roll-aways” and subsequent injuries evoke the memory of actor Anton Yelchin, who lost his life prematurely in June when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee (made by Fiat-Chrysler) “rolled-away,” pinning him against a brick pillar and a fence. Yelchin’s Jeep was included in the recall of more than 1 million Fiat-Chrysler vehicles announced by the NHTSA back in April. But a recall notice did not arrive at Yelchin’s home until seven days after he died. The April recall included 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs, 2012 to 2014 Dodge Charger SUVs, and 2012 to 2014 Chrysler 300 sedans. That recall was connected to more than 250 crashes and 68 injuries with over 300 reports of damaged property. Yelchin’s family has since filed a negligence and products liability lawsuit against Fiat-Chrysler.

NHTSA’s Previous Probe Into Fiat-Chrysler

The NHTSA’s last probe into Fiat-Chrysler vehicles in January 2016 followed similar complaints that the gear shifters were not working properly, allegedly leading to “roll-aways.” That investigation led to a national recall four months later, which included Yelchin’s Jeep. A Fiat-Chrysler spokesperson said that the automaker is “cooperating fully with NHTSA’s current investigation,” but added that “the scope” is “limited.” Before issuing any kind of recall, the next step for the current investigation would be to move to the “engineering analysis” phase. This is when the NHTSA would recreate a “roll-away” scenario with one of the vehicles in question in a controlled setting—as they did earlier this year before the April recall.

Both Fiat-Chrysler and the NHTSA recommend all drivers use the additional parking brake (or “emergency brake”) every time they park—even if getting out of the vehicle for only a moment. The NHTSA stated that the most recent reports “alleged that the unintended motion occurred after the driver moved the transmission gear selector to park and exited the vehicle.” The report also stated that none of those cars had their emergency parking brake activated at the time of the incident and the majority had their engines idling.

To eliminate “roll-aways” all together Fiat-Chrysler has created a new feature in their Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Chrysler 200 sedans that can detect when a car door is opened, which automatically engages the emergency brake. Fiat-Chrysler addressed the April recall in a similar way by updating the software to automatically engage the parking brake under certain situations to protect their customers. But until these features are added to all of their vehicles, owners of a 2013 – 2016 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck or a 2014 – 2016 Dodge Durango should take extra precaution when parking and notify the NHTSA with any reports of a “roll-away.”

To file a complaint with the NHTSA see:

https://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/VehicleComplaint/

To check if your vehicle has been affected by a past recall see:

http://consumerwatch.com/vehicle-recall-checker-by-vin-check-vehicle-recalls/

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