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Recall nearly here: how the auto-park works

by David Zatz on

Owners of cars with “spring-back” electronic shifters will get their recalls months sooner than expected, according to a company spokesman.

Last week, FCA US began to provide 2,427 dealers with software to update vehicles with the shifters (certain Chrysler 300s, Dodge Chargers, and Jeep Grand Cherokees).  Letters asking customers to schedule service will be mailed beginning on June 24, months before the expected date. The “fast track” treatment had, according to a spokesman, begun in May.

The recall was first announced on April 22. While the shifter is not defective and is operating as designed — and is very similar to shifters used by other automakers, such as Audi — some drivers are leaving their vehicles, while they are running, without making sure they are in Park, sometimes resulting in serious injuries. This also happens with traditional shifters.

Audi shifter

There have been 41 possibly related injuries. No evidence of equipment failure was found in these cases.

The shifters return to the same position after each shift; there are two sets of lights, but the gear-selector position does not provide any indication of what gear the transmission is in.

The existing warning chimes and alerts when driver-side doors are opened while engines are running and “PARK” is not engaged do not appear to be enough for some drivers, so FCA US will enhance the warnings and transmission-shift strategy on these vehicles. In essence, the transmission will shift to Park if the car is stopped and the door is opened.

According to dealers, the shifter will only park automatically if the vehicle has been going less than 1.2 mph within five seconds, is stopped, the driver is unbuckled, the door is ajar, and the brake pedal is not pressed. Otherwise, it will shift to neutral, where it can still roll; the company recommends using the parking brake when leaving. There will be warnings in the EVIC.

The recall covers certain model-year 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300/300C sedans (V6 models), and model-year 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs, around the world.  Cards were sent out to all owners to explain how the system works and provide some advice on using the car safely (essentially, make sure you are in Park and use the parking brake before leaving the car).

The first vehicles to be recalled will have the 3.6 and 5.7 liter engines; any remaining vehicles, including diesel and SRT Grand Cherokees, will follow. Customers may call their dealers to request appointments or, if they have questions, can call 1-800-853-1403.

The widely publicized death of movie actor Anton Yelchin had brought a great deal of attention, and inaccurate reporting, to the recall.

FCA switched to a new design in the Charger and 300 in model-year 2015, and in the Grand Cherokee in model-year 2016, following to customer preferences.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304


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