— A Fiat Chrysler (FCA US) electronic gear shifter class-action lawsuit alleges more than 1 million Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles have electronic shifters that are hazardous to your health.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of owners of 2012-2014 Dodge Charger, 2012-2014 Chrysler 300 and 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles equipped with gear shifters made by ZF Friedrichshafen AG (ZF).
The plaintiffs say the electronic shifters are confusing because the levers always move back to a central position instead of "shifting" into any gear. The driver can't depend on the feel of the shifter or its location, but instead must always look at indicator lights to determine which gear is used.
According to the lawsuit, this makes the vehicles dangerous to drive considering they don't have safety overrides.
Owners say a gear shifter must let a driver know when the car is in PARK and when it's safe to exit the vehicle, or at the least the car must have a safety override system that automatically puts the transmission in PARK when the driver-side door is opened and pressure is taken from the brake pedal.
The plaintiffs claim over 300 accidents have been reported due to the electronic shifters, leading to dozens of injuries and possibly the death of actor Anton Yelchin. Mr. Yelchin was killed when his Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backward and crushed Yelchin between the SUV and a concrete-reinforced mailbox.
The incident is currently under investigation to determine what role if any the electronic gear shifter played in Yelchin's death.
The lawsuit alleges FCA could have avoided all the headaches by doing what BMW does with its electronic shifters. BMW electronic shifters return to the center position as do the Chrysler shifters, but rollaway incidents don't occur because BMW uses safety systems.
On the BMW, if the car is not in PARK and the driver’s door is opened and the brake pedal is released, the BMW automatically shifts into PARK and prevents the car from moving.
The plaintiffs say complaints and accident reports starting flowing in to the automaker and the government in 2015, yet FCA didn't order a recall until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into the shifters. By the time the electronic shifter lawsuit was filed, Chrysler had only sent letters to owners describing the confusing design of the ZF shifters.
The plaintiffs say there is no excuse for FCA not to fix the vehicles now because all that needs to be done is to look at what FCA's competitors have done.
According to the lawsuit, the vehicles are unsafe in "any driveway" and now owners will have to cope with diminished vehicle values even after recall repairs are performed.
The plaintiffs want Chrysler to immediately install safety override systems or replace the ZF electronic shifters. In addition, FCA should repurchase the vehicles from owners or provider loaner cars until repairs are made to the gear shifters.
The plaintiffs also demand the automaker reimburse owners who have paid out-of-pocket to fix the shifters and to reimburse owners who have purchased extended warranties due to the shifters.
The Chrysler electronic shifter lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Eastern Division - Deryl Wall, Justine Andollo, and Danielle and Joby Hackett, et al v. FCA US LLC.
The plaintiffs are represented by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.