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The loony recall begins

by David Zatz on

Owners of cars with the patented Curse-O-Matic shifter are now getting their recall notices.  The shifter, purchased from ZF, sits straight up in the center console; if you want to change gears, you press in the button and move it back, and when you’re reached the desired gear (or not), it springs back into its neutral position, giving no tactile indication of where you are.

Possibly because the shifter doesn’t stay in place, the gears are shown both on the shifter and on the gauge cluster (P, R, N, D, L, and in some cars, the actual gear, e.g. 2 or 3.)

The envelopes make it clear something serious is coming:

recall notice

By the way, the first line of redacted text, just above the address, is the latter part of your VIN. It would be more worrisome if people couldn’t get it by leaning over your windshield.

Now you open it and see a fairly long letter in fairly small print. It essentially says that if leave your car in Drive or Reverse with the brake off, and the engine running, it will roll away. Oh, and our inane shifter makes that easier than ever, because we forgot to do usability testing.  We’ll fix it late this year and will let you know when you’re ready. It’ll be free. Sorry we don’t do IQ testing before selling cars, that’s really your state’s job. (It doesn’t actually say this.)

There’s also an odd bit of boilerplate saying that if you already paid for a repair, you can get paid back. Don’t ask who would get paid to “fix” this or how they would do it. Oh, and they are sorry for the inconvenience, and if you move, can you please tell them with this card?

recall card

Finally, FCA provides this helpful reference card in case you couldn’t figure out how to see if you’re in Park (the little “P” lights up) or if the brake is on (you shift into Drive and the car doesn’t move — also a good way to see if the brake’s working, since they go out of adjustment).

That’s a lot of text and it’s quiet small, to the point where I need to upgrade my eyeglass prescription to read it, but make sure you put it onto your sun visor so you can read it  every time you start the car (yes, they do suggest this).

To avoid causing recalls such as this, try:

  1. Not leaving your car running with nobody in the driver’s seat
  2. Making sure your car is in Park with the brake on if you do leave the car running with nobody in the driver’s seat.

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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