The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is taking a close look at roughly one million Ram trucks and Dodge SUVS for possible rollaway issues. The concern is over reports the vehicles are rolling away even when they’re in park.
There have been 43 complaints so far. The alleged problem has also resulted in 25 crashes and nine injuries.
FCA is working with the government on the investigation and is recommending that drivers set the emergency brake in addition to putting vehicles in park. Affected models include 2013-16 Ram 1500 pickups and 2014-16 Dodge Durango SUVs. This isn’t the first time FCA has had issues with its vehicles rolling away.
The company recalled over 1.1 million vehicles worldwide this spring for a rollaway problem. That recall affected Dodge Chargers, Chrysler 300s, and Jeep Grand Cherokees, which have been tied to 266 crashes and 308 reports of property damage. There were also 68 injuries with these vehicles.
Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin was killed back in June due to a rollaway accident involving his recalled Jeep Grand Cherokee. The 27-year-old actor lost his life when his Jeep rolled backward in his steep driveway and pinned him against a brick wall. Yelchin’s parents sued FCA over the incident.
FCA isn’t the only automaker coming under scrutiny for rollaway issues. NHTSA is also taking a look at 39,000 2012-14 Land Rover Evoques and 2013 Jaguar XFs for similar complaints. There have been seven reported complaints and four reports of injuries with these vehicles.
What these vehicles all have in common is a rotary gear selector. Rather than a traditional gear selector that is more of a stick the driver moves up and down to select a gear, these selectors are simply a dial that spins.
It sounds easy enough, but it’s not what people are used to operating. The physical motion and hard snap that comes with a traditional gear shift lever are gone. Ford and Chrysler vehicles make a little click as you spin between gears, but it’s not as distinct as the old style levers.
The move toward rotary gear selectors helps free up space on the center console. It creates more room for cupholders and is a convenient space for charging and storing devices like your smartphone.
It takes a little time to get used to a rotary gear selector and it is very easy to accidentally spin to the wrong gear. FCA is combatting the problem with a feature that appears on the new Chrysler Pacifica and Chrysler 200.
In these vehicles, if the driver’s seatbelt is unbuckled and the driver’s door is open, then the car automatically engages the parking brake. This way, the car won’t roll away if the driver has either forgotten to put the car in park or accidentally left it in gear.
The NHTSA investigation into Ram 1500s and Dodge Durangos will have to determine whether the cars are slipping out of gear, or if user error isn’t putting them in park in the first place.