NHTSA Investigates Reports of Allegedly Parked Vehicles Rolling Away
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating 1 million Dodge Ram pickups and Dodge Durango SUVs following reports of vehicles unexpectedly rolling away after being placed in the parked position. The “preliminary evaluation” will focus on Ram 1500 pickups (2013-2016) and Dodge Durango SUVs (2014-2016) that use an electronic transmission with a rotary control to select gear position. NHTSA is aware of 43 reports of roll-aways, leading to 25 accidents and nine injuries.
Parker Waichman LLP is a national personal injury law firm with decades of experience representing clients in lawsuits over allegedly defective products, including recalled automobiles. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a Dodge roll-away lawsuit.
Complaints say the vehicles rolled away after being placed in the parked position. NHTSA documents released in December state, “the reports alleged that the unintended motion occurred after the driver moved the transmission gear selector to park and exited the vehicle.” Some vehicles were off when the alleged roll-away occurred, but most complaints say the vehicles were on. None of the reports state that the parking break was engaged.
NHTSA is investigating similar complaints with 39,000 2012-2014 Land Rover Evoque and 2013 Jaguar XF vehicles. The agency said it received seven reports where drivers said “unintended motion occurred after the driver switched the transmission gear selector to Park with the engine running and after the operator excited the vehicle,” according to NHTSA documents. Four people were reportedly injured, specifically when the vehicle rolled away with the driver door still open. One person was pinned against a garage wall.
NHTSA is focusing on vehicles that use a rotary transmission switch. Auto makers began placing these types of gear selectors in the Ram in 2013. Other vehicles began featuring it later. The rotary transmission switch is different from the traditional gear shifter; it is a dial. Manufacturers favored the system more in recent years because it takes up less space, leaving extra room for features such as cup holders. Some drivers, however, say the new gear selector is confusing and increases the chance of an accident.
1.1 Million Fiat Chrysler Cars Recalled Due to Gear Shifter
Unexpected roll-aways also prompted Fiat Chrysler to recall 1.1 million vehicles in April 2016. Drivers complained that the new gear shifter was confusing, causing them to believe their cars were in park when they were not. Unlike a traditional gear shifter, the electronic shift lever returns to the same position after each change. Drivers need to use indicator lights to confirm their gear selection, rather than noting the position of the gear shifter. At least 41 injuries are associated with confusion over the gear shifter, CBS reports.
The recall affects the 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans and the 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV. The recall affects 811,586 vehicles in the United States and 317,616 vehicles elsewhere.
Fiat Chrysler addressed the issue in a statement, saying “The vehicles affected by this recall are equipped with electronic shift levers that return to the same position after each manipulation. Gear-selection is conveyed to the driver by multiple sets of indicator lights, not gear-selector position, and unless due care is taken, drivers may draw erroneous conclusions about the status of their vehicles.”
The Fiat Chrysler recall also made headlines following the death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin. When the 27-year-old actor exited his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the vehicle rolled down his driveway and pinned him against a brick mailbox pillar and a security fence. Reportedly, the vehicle was on when it rolled down the driveway. This corroborates with most roll-away complaints.
There is a fail-safe in some vehicles using an electronic shifter; if the driver turns the car off and opens the door, this mechanism automatically turns the car off or shifts it into park. Jeeps, however, do not have this feature.
In response to Yelchin’s death, NHTSA said, “We’re in contact with local authorities and Fiat Chrysler to understand all of the facts related to this tragic crash, including whether or not this was caused by the current issue under recall. Last year, NHTSA initiated an investigation into the issue, FCA identified the defect, and finally issued a recall last month at NHTSA’s urging. Until all of these recalled vehicles are fixed, owners should take extra care to make sure their car is in park and turned completely off before exiting.”
Fiat Chrysler Sued Over Alleged Emissions Cheating Scheme
The roll-away reports are not the only obstacle Fiat Chrysler is facing. The company is also facing a class action lawsuit alleging that it cheated on diesel emissions tests. The suit, which also names Cummins Inc. as a defendant, was filed on behalf of 2500 and 3500 Dodge RAM truck owners. The suit alleges that Fiat Chrysler and Cummins deceived consumers into believing that the vehicles complied with emission standards, when they actually release illegally high levels of NOx emissions.
The suit focuses on Dodge RAM vehicles with Cummins diesel engines, which include: 2007-2010 Dodge RAM 2500 (2WD, 4WD), 2011-2012 Dodge RAM 2500 (non-SCR systems, 2WD, 4WD), 2007-2010 Dodge RAM 3500 (2WD, 4WD) and 2011-2012 Dodge RAM 3500 (non-SCR systems, 2WD, 4WD).
Plaintiffs allege that the Cummins diesel engine does not show drivers the actual emissions output. Allegedly, the catalytic converter degrades quickly, which causes the vehicle to burn fuel at a higher rate. The suit alleges that this defect causes consumers to spend $3,000 to $5,000 in repairs.
The companies are accused of obscuring true emissions levels, illegally selling vehicles that fail to meet emissions standards, fraudulent concealment, false advertising, and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and consumer-protection laws.
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