• Is FCA Responsible For The Untimely Death Of Star Trek Actor Anton Yelchin?

The tally for FCA’s shifter issue might raise to 121 accidents, 41 injuries, and one death.

It was just last April that we learned of a potential issue with the shifter used in the 2012 to 2013 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, and the 2014 to 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The problem with the shifter is that it is spring loaded, so it returns to a centered position after gear selection and according to the NHTSA, the “Monostable shifter is not intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.” FCA issued a voluntary recall for some 1.1 million vehicles, and one of the Jeep Grand Cherokees recalled could have been owned by Anton Yelchin – a young actor who was just killed in a roll-away accident involving his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Preliminary reports from the Los Angeles Police Department claim that Yelchin exited his car outside of his home around 1:10 a.m. Pacific time, at which point the vehicle proceeded to roll backward and crushed him against a brick pillar and a security fence. His injuries were traumatic, and Yelchin died at the scene. He was found by friends who came looking for him when he failed to show up for rehearsal. He was 27 years old and has acted in movies such as Like Crazy and Alpha Dog, as well as recent Star Trek films.

This is an unfortunate occurrence, and it just goes to show how auto manufacturers need to take things a little more seriously when it comes to design and integration of controls. Sure, FCA voluntarily recalled the affected vehicles and sent out a recall notice along with a reprint of instructions for the shifter that can be found in the owner’s manual. Sources indicate that the recall itself would include adding a chime that will go off when the driver’s door is open and the transmission isn’t in park, and a software update that will prevent the vehicle from rolling under different circumstances.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it Matters

There’s no doubt in my mind that FCA will try to pass the blame off on Yelchin to prevent being liable for his death, but in the end, the mass amount of safety-related recalls lately is absolutely ridiculous. There is nothing fortunate about death, especially a death of someone who has yet to hit 30 years of age, but fortunately, it’s the only death so far related to the confusing shifter. It is a shame that yet another preventable death has occurred, and my heart goes out to Yelchin’s family and friends. Hopefully, FCA will use his death as motivation to streamline the recall process and prevent safety-related issues in the future.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the Jeep Grand Cherokee here.

Robert Moore
Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topspeed.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read full bio
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