Yelchin’s Jeep Recently Subject of Recall by Fiat Chrysler Over Faulty Gear Shift

The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee model owned by Anton Yelchin that was involved in his tragic death on June 19th had previously been subject to a recall by manufacturer Fiat Chrysler after the company found that electronic shifts could spring back to their position after being moved to a different gear, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) had determined that the operation of the gear shift in these models was not intuitive and provided poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver. The NHTSA found that the electronic shifts could spring back to their last position after being moved to a different gear, increasing the possibility that the vehicle could move unexpectedly if the parking brake was not applied

Fiat Chrysler automotive in April 2016 voluntarily recalled roughly 1.1 million vehicles, including 2014 and 2015 model Jeep Grand Cherokees, that had been manufactured between 2012 and 2015. The owners of the effected vehicles were to receive notices of the recall via post by mid-May 2016, and Fiat Chrysler hoped to resolve the problem by Q4 2016.

Fiat Chrysler issued a statement expressing sympathy to Yechin’s family and added that the company would conduct a thorough investigation of the accident. According to the Los Angeles Times report, at least 41 injuries were linked to the recall issue since April.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), who is conducting an investigation into Yelchin’s death, indicated today that its investigation was only in its preliminary stages. The investigation will look into whether Yelchin’s vehicle was in gear or park at the time of the accident, according to LAPD Media Relations Officer Jane Kim.

LAPD Valley Traffic Division detective William Bustos today said the crash was partially captured by a surveillance camera and ruled out foul play. Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office Spokesman Ed Winter today announced that investigators had concluded that Yelchin’s death had been caused by blunt traumatic asphyxia.

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As an engineer, we like to change designs to make improvements but we must also take into consideration the user intuition and how that affects its use. I’ve read articles months before this tragic event occurred about the concerns with their gear shifts. If the Jeep was initially thought to have been placed in park but was actually in neutral causing Anton Yelchin’s death, should this force Fiat to create a mandatory recall? Is this just a freak incident and no one really is to blame? Or something else? Tragic, tragic situation.

There was a recall, is my understanding. Whether mandatory or not, I don’t know. However, there were according to news reports hundreds of reports of injury or property damaged caused by this alleged defect prior to Fiat Chrysler’s recall.

The recall requested that owners become educated as to the operation of this fear shift. I do not know if any physical changes or rectification of the design of the affected recalled vehicles occurred or were offered.

“fear shift”

Unintended typo, but sadly very true here. This is unacceptable for a car shifting design…somebody needs to go to jail.

Hat Rick, there is a voluntary recall. When I posed the question, I meant should the recall be changed from voluntary to mandatory. As it currently is a voluntary recall, it’s a little more difficult to say it’s entirely Fiat’s fault (as opposed to them having united the issue). Dealers are supposed to train buyers on the new gear shift.

Prodigal Son, with the current facts as released, I do not agree that “someone needs to go to jail.” And what would you charge them with, some form of murder or involuntary manslaughter?

Bud, GM was skewered for weighing the financial hit of lawsuits due to 120 accidental deaths vs. recalls of their model cars in question. They paid out almost a billion, and will be held not guilty when they fix their recall process. Frankly, once your company begins measuring shareholder returns with dead bodies, it’s time to fire the entire Board. If there is even a doubt, and that doubt results in a recall that saves one life, it is something worth doing. Hell, only an idiot in the car industry wouldn’t pad the P&L with recall costs these days. Not only in the States, but Asian and European manufacturers (Jeep is Italian) are making crap these days, it would seem.

AJinMoscow, the target for these companies ought to be 0 fatalities, period. That’s why these companies are expanding their focus from passenger safety in an accident (airbags, seat belts, crumple zones) to accident prevention (lane guidance, blindspot warning, backup cameras). I don’t know what your definition of making crap is though.

Getting back to the gear shift, the nonintuitive design should be examined further. People should not be getting in accidents, especially because of a gear shift.

So frustrating to see things like this happen. Such a waste of a promising life. I will be watching this investigation.

I am finding the concept of recalls difficult to understand. Automobiles have been in production for in excess of a century. How can it be that in 2015 a vehicle is manufactured with such a severe design flaw? Automotive companies employ thousands of engineers working terribly long hours and this is the result? And the consumer is asked to pay tens of thousands of dollars for such substandard quality? The price of this particular vehicle has to range between $30,000-$50,000. This is very difficult to accept as a freak accident. Am curious if there is an automotive engineer out there who can offer any insight as to how this can occur.

Simple. Efficiency=savings. If the breaking system is electronic based instead of mechanical based, that just means that there are less parts to put into a vehicle. As an aside, I noticed that newer cars require a certain level of expertise that, in years past, was not the case. In fact, even a layman could repair his own car, which is not necessarily the case these days.

You are correct, in fact so correct, General Motors and John Deere forbid working on some systems (if not the whole car coming soon to a dealership near you) because they are saying the software the car uses is licensed, not sold with the rights of ownership of the vehicle. It’s been in the last 6 months that I read that.

Merchant of Vulcan, I’m a mechanical engineer so I’m closely “related” to automotive engineers. The change that was made was to the overall gear shift’s design that, compared to traditional gear shifts, is not as intuitive. This apparently caused the vehicle not to have been placed in park but in neutral which caused the accident. There are articles and videos showing this on YouTube. This is not necessarily considered a design flaw but requires the dealer train the buyer on proper use. Just because you don’t know how to use something does not mean the design is flawed, BUT I will say that the implementation from Fiat on this new design has not proven reliable as this has caused many dozens of incidents.

DSWynne, as far as modifying designs from mechanical to electrical, it does save on some material costs but you must also consider the cost to program. Also, electrical systems should ensure your vehicle is more reliable over a longer period. Less moving parts = less opportunity for failure. An easy example of this is looking at computers with flash memory as opposed to hard drive disks.

@Bud, Somehow I don’t think an excited buyer of a brand-new car is going to be very attentive to a training session at the dealer’s; so, a poor decision on Fiat Jeep management’s part.

Cross-transference error is a serious business and in this case has caused fatalities. This was a poor design implemented inadvisedly.

Marja, I most certainly agree and can relate to what you’re saying. When I bought my first car, I just wanted to get out of there and thought “it’s a car and I’ll figure it out.”


BREAKING:. Paramount cancels June 22 STAR TREK publicity event due to Anton Yelchin death.

First Paul Walker now Anton Yelchin perhaps a background check into Justin Lin is needed? Yes I know inappropriate; nevertheless, its a strange correlation…

As someone on the other thread pointed out, Paul Walker died in the midst of filming with director Lin. Anton Yelchin died after filming. IMO your joke, or remark, whatever, was, yes, inappropriate.

I may be wrong (and often am) and not that it matters, but wasn’t James Wan directing the Furious film Walker was in the midst of filming when he died?

Anyway, I agree – not a great comment, whether it was a joke or not.

Correct, Walker passed away during the production of Furious 7 which was directed by James Wan.

Either way, this is a really ridiculous thing to say. This was a tragic accident.

Such a terrible tragedy — Anton was an amazing actor and human being and will be deeply missed. He brought a lot of joy into my life over the many years I’ve followed his work. I’m so sad to see him go.

Farewell and thank you for everything Anton.

NEW: Report claims Fiat Chrysler has opened an investigation into Anton Yelchin fatality.

NEW: Report claims no retrofitting of affected Jeep Grand Chevrolet were offered through recall by car maker, though as a result of relevant injuries and property damage, subject equipment or indicators in subsequent builds or models were redesigned.

Source: Autonews (website).

Some people on other sites mentioned, that there is a light in these kinds of cars, which indicates, when a car is in the “park” option. Was that not working? Either way using the gear should be intuitive, seemingly it wasn’t, so that was a bad design either way. I already find all these letters confusing in the gears. Driving with a manually gear where you have to shift between gears 1-5 on your own and where one direction is for driving backwards, sounds less confusing.

I do wonder why there is a neutral “gear” in automatic cars. I’ve always seen/understood the Park as the equivalent to the neutral “gear” on a manual transmission system. However, the Park option (at least in the 1997 2.25L Honda Odyssey I have) seems a safer step up from Neutral in the manual gearing. It is not possible to start the car without the car being in Park or unlock the power steering without having the footbrake on. Usually the handbrake is on as well. The thing is that a car will move with a handbrake on…if it is in gear.
Although I think that Neutral disengages the engine, it can’t stop gravity, even with a handbrake on, if the surface is on steep incline.
I never use Neutral.

It’s truly stunning!!! So many car companies have had major recalls lately, including the one for this model of Jeep.

I read that Chrysler was also aware of rear bumper impacts starting fires on these Grand Cherokees; due to the proximity of the gas tank, behind it.

You’d think that no car company would’ve taken that risk ever again, after the scandal surrounding the old Ford Pinto’s design was made public.

You read about stuff like this and just have a hard time making sense of it in your head. It just goes to show how fragile life is. Fiat Chrysler really needs to step up and make sure that they handle this investigation properly. This is a real wake up call that these recalls need a bigger sense of urgency. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to get my car serviced and learned of an important recall that I was never made aware of by the dealership.

I know engineers and they like to change things.

Misleading headline. The gear shifter is not faulty.

Ted C,

Re: The gear shifter is not faulty

Even more misleading is the gearshift isn’t a stick but a self-centering joystick made up to look like one even though it in no way behaves as one would.

And the jury’s still out as to whether that’s the only problem with it. There’s testimonial evidence that seems to indicate that these joysticks’ internal switches could be being misread due to the vehicle’s idling vibrations on non-level surfaces.

But I have faith that Yelchin’s vehicle is getting a thorough analysis with LAPD keeping a watchful eye.