A Federal District Judge on Monday issued a decision that says owners of certain Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep® vehicles can proceed with their class-action lawsuit against Stellantis (FCA US, LLC) for some 266 rollaway crashes and 68 injuries caused by the controversial monostable shifter, found on 8-speed automatic transmissions from 2012 to 2015. The real question is, did FCA US, LLC know about the situation and continue to the vehicles anyway?
In 2016, FCA US, LLC issued a recall (#16V-240, FCA Recall #S27) for 1.1 million vehicles equipped with the monostable shifter. The electronic monostable shifter (or e-shifter) was confusing to most people and has been legally described as “confusing” and “difficult” to use. The recall supplied a software update to the affected vehicles (2012 to 2014 Dodge Charger, 2012 to 2014 Chrysler 300 Series, and 2014 to 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee), which provided a fix for the issue.
So what did the software update do?
“If the driver’s door is opened when the gearshift is not in Park, a chime sounds, and a message is displayed on the EVIC to warn the driver,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated in a Summary of the Engineering Analysis. “In addition, the engine Start/Stop push-button control logic does not permit normal engine shut-off when the transmission is not in Park. This logic may provide feedback to drivers who attempt to turn the engine off when the transmission is not in Park. However, this function does not protect drivers who intentionally leave the engine running or drivers who do not recognize that the engine continues to run after an attempted shut-off.”
Among the 68 injuries related to the situation was the 2016 death of “Star Trek” actor Anton Yelchin. After Yelchin failed to arrive at a rehearsal, he was found by some friends after midnight, pinned between his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee and a brick pillar gate outside his home in Los Angeles. According to reports, Yelchin got out of his vehicle and went to check his mailbox, when the vehicle rolled back down the steep incline of his driveway and crushed him. The transmission had apparently not been put into the Park “P” position. FCA US, LLC settled outside of court with his family for an undisclosed amount in March 2018.
The class-action suit will address the specific flaw and two related issues. It will not determine FCA US, LLC’s liability for the economic losses of the buyers of the affected vehicles. The legal battle will begin on September 6th, as announced in the United States Court of the Eastern District of Michigan.
The monostable shifter was designed and manufactured by ZF Friedrichshafen AG (ZF).