‘Star Trek’ Actor Anton Yelchin Killed in Freak Accident – FCA Shifter Recall to Blame
This past weekend, Anton Yelchin died from injuries he sustained in a freak accident at his home in Los Angeles. The actor, best known for his role as Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek reboot series, inadvertently left his Jeep Grand Cherokee in gear while he exited the vehicle. Somehow he got behind the Jeep and it began moving. Subsequently, the 2015 Grand Cherokee pinned Yelchin between a gate pillar on his property, causing his death.
Back in February 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association launched an inquiry into FCA’s newest automatic transmission shifter, the monostable E-shift gear shifter. The problem the NHTSA was investigating? Customers simply couldn’t figure out how it works.
The problem itself isn’t a matter of a defective component; the gearshift works as it is designed to work seemingly without fail. However, it uses an innovative design that electronically shifts the transmission from your input, then the shift knob returns to a central position. Whether you shift into drive, neutral, reverse, or park, the shifter ends up in the center position on the console.
That becomes an issue if you don’t realize the transmission isn’t in the gear you actually want, such as park, and you exit the vehicle with the transmission still in gear. The instrument cluster tells you otherwise and there’s an incessant dinging noise but you’re able to exit the vehicle while it’s still in gear. The engine won’t turn off with the transmission in gear, but you can exit the car.
There have been over 300 instances of driver error where the vehicle has rolled away. It causes property damage and has caused injury also, which is why there’s an inquiry. With Anton Yelchin’s death, the matter will assuredly draw more negative attention to the problem.
After a three-month look-see, the NHTSA determined that there isn’t a flaw in the design nor is there a safety-related issue. It’s purely an issue of the driver learning how their vehicle operates correctly and following instructions.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) took it upon themselves to offer a voluntary safety recall for over 1.1 million vehicles with the monostable E-shift gear shifter. They’ll implement a repair that provides enhanced warnings for the driver when the proper gear has not been selected. If the door is opened when the transmission is not yet in park, the vehicle will not be prevented from moving.
The vehicles affected include 2012 to 2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans, and 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs. After 2015, FCA changed their shifter design due to the non-intuitive operation when a large number of reports surfaced.
If you suspect your vehicle is part of the recall, you can check here on the NHTSA recall website.