Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 1.1 million cars because owners were having difficulties with the unusual electronic shift lever. With many drivers used to physically shifting a lever into position, the electronic lever used in some older Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, and Jeep Grand Cherokee models can be confusing.
Instead of physically moving the lever from one position to another, it resets to a center position in between uses. To put it in Park, drivers push it forward, regardless of what gear they're currently in. To put it in Drive, they pull backward. Simply by looking at it, there isn't an immediate indication of what gear is selected other than some small LED lights.
It is understandable that people are having trouble and, I suspect, much of the trouble is with people who aren't particularly familiar with the car. In a press release, Chrysler says that "unless due care is taken, drivers may draw erroneous conclusions about the status of their vehicles." The company says it's aware of 41 injuries that are potentially related to this shift knob issue.
"unless due care is taken, drivers may draw erroneous conclusions about the status of their vehicles"
Currently, the cars deliver warning messages and sounds if the driver's door is opened while the engine is running and the car isn't in Park but, an investigation found, these measures "may be insufficient to deter some drivers from exiting their vehicles without selecting Park." In other words, people aren't paying enough attention to what the hell they're doing. At the same time, it's not too much to ask of Chrysler to make its cars less confusing.
So, Chrysler is reprogramming the cars with even more warnings, and an enhancement that will prevent the car from moving even if the driver fails to shift into Park. Chrysler also redesigned the shift lever in the Charger, the 300, and the Grand Cherokee "to address customer-satisfaction issues."
Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified the shift lever that was being recalled. The spinning dial gear shift used in many current Fiat Chrysler products is not being recalled.