In a recent development, U.S. auto safety regulators have wrapped up a seven-year investigation into complaints regarding Dodge and Ram vehicles, ultimately deciding against issuing a recall. The probe focused on concerns that these vehicles could roll away after being shifted into park, a problem eerily reminiscent of an incident involving the late Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin.
The Investigation –
Launched in December 2016, the investigation covered approximately 1.3 million Ram 1500 pickup trucks from model years 2013 to 2017, as well as Dodge Durango SUVs from 2014 through 2017. The key issue revolved around the electronic dial-like rotary gear selector knobs, a departure from the traditional mechanical shifters that used a lever to choose gears.
Complaints and Response –
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) received nearly 1,500 complaints about these vehicles rolling away after being parked. However, the investigation did not reveal any evidence of a design or manufacturing defect leading to these incidents.
Stellantis took proactive measures by conducting a “customer satisfaction campaign,” updating the software to ensure that the vehicles automatically shift into park when the driver’s door is opened. According to the NHTSA, this initiative proved effective in reducing the frequency of rollaway incidents in the subject vehicles.
No Identified Safety Defect –
The NHTSA concluded that, based on the available information and the success of Stellantis’ customer satisfaction campaign, there was no identified safety defect warranting further action at this time. The agency acknowledged a significant decrease in customer complaints after the software update.
Stellantis’ Response –
In a statement, Stellantis agreed with the NHTSA’s findings and conveyed satisfaction that the software update seemed to have addressed customer concerns.
Anton Yelchin Incident –
The investigation drew parallels to the tragic incident involving Anton Yelchin, who lost his life in 2016 when his Jeep® pinned him against a mailbox pillar and security fence. Yelchin’s vehicle was part of a recall due to difficulties in determining if the shift levers were in park. The software update implemented by Stellantis aimed to automatically shift the vehicles into park when the driver’s door is opened, addressing the confusion faced by many drivers.
While concerns about Dodge and Ram vehicles’ gear shifters prompted a lengthy investigation, the NHTSA’s decision not to issue a recall reflects confidence in the effectiveness of Stellantis’ proactive measures. The focus on improving software functionality appears to have mitigated the risk of rollaway incidents, offering a resolution without the need for further regulatory action.