NZ lightly touched by FCA transmission issue?

NZ owners of Jeep’s biggest model seem set to escape a huge recall over a transmission issue, but some Chrysler 300s might be affected.

CURRENT generation Grand Cherokees brought to New Zealand by Jeep’s distributor seem unlikely to be involved in a global recall for a suspected gearbox issue that might have contributed to a Hollywood actor’s death.

However, a small number of Chrysler 300 sedans have been caught up in the issue and will be subject to remedial action, a spokesman says.

In April Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced the worldwide campaign due to a risk that the joystick style automatic transmission shifters used in the affected vehicles might lead to drivers failing to select park before exiting, potentially leading to it rolling away on an incline.

The action was expected to affect 1.1 million vehicles with the eight-speed unit.

However, it seems New Zealand is not feeling much heat.

Edward Rowe, a professional public relations consultant to the motor industry who acts as a spokesman for Fiat Chrysler New Zealand, has told MotoringNetwork that records for NZ imported cars suggest Kiwis can rest easy.

Rowe said the Auckland head office had run a check of vehicle identification numbers involved for the action and “confirmed confirmed that no Jeep Grand Cherokee cars sold in NZ are involved.

“However, there are a small number of Chrysler 300 vehicles involved in the recall and they will be processed.”

The recall affects model-year 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees and MY2012-2014 Chrysler 300s “equipped with electronic shift levers that return to a centre position after selecting drive, neutral, reverse or park”.

The gear selector issue hit headlines this week when Russian-born Hollywood actor Anton Yelchin was found dead, having been pinned against a mailbox and security gate at the bottom of his steep driveway by his Grand Cherokee. It was one of the models caught up in the recall.

FCA has promised to conduct a “thorough investigation” of the incident that killed the Star Trek actor, though a brand spokesman has reminded that  “it is premature to speculate on its cause at this time.”

In April FCA admitted it was aware of 41 injuries potentially related to the transmission selector recall, which was prompted after the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation after receiving numerous complaints and reports of incidents in which people were hurt.

The suggestion is that it is not necessarily a specific fault with the gearbox but more likely user confusion about how it actions.

The fix is potentially no more difficult that a software update.

In the meantime, Fiat Chrysler locally has felt the need to issue the following explanation in light of the issue.

“The selected gear is conveyed to the driver by multiple sets of indicator lights. As a safety precaution, the vehicles deliver warning chimes and alert messages if a driver attempts to switch off the engine when in any gear other than park, or if the driver-side doors are opened while their engines are still running and park is not engaged. As a further safety precaution, it is also recommended that drivers engage the parking brake whenever they leave the vehicle,” reads a distributor statement.

“However, an investigation found these measures may be insufficient to deter some drivers from exiting their vehicles without first selecting park.”

The intent is to “enhance the warnings and transmission-shift strategy on these vehicles via a software update. The enhancements will combine warnings with a transmission-shift strategy to automatically prevent a vehicle from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to select park.”.

Owners of affected vehicles are be notified once the software patch becomes available. Overseas reports suggest this will be in July.

In the interim, customers are being urged to “refer to their owner’s manual that outlines correct operation of the Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300 transmission, including selecting park, ensuring the engine is switched off and engaging the parking brake before exiting the vehicle. Alternatively, customers can contact their dealer for detailed instructions.”

It was reported today that Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli cars with same gearbox might also now be caught up in the issue, but Maserati locally had yet to signal this.