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Car and Driver: Jeep Grand Cherokee to Get Software Fix to Prevent Rollaways

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The console shifter on a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 models included in the investigation use an identical shifter.

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New software will prevent Jeep Grand Cherokees with the controversial electronically controlled “monostable” shifter from moving after the driver’s door is opened, even if the vehicle is not in park. The software patch is being shipped to dealers this week, and owners of the recalled 2014 and 2015 Grand Cherokees will be contacted to bring their vehicles in for the update

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The move comes only days after the death of actor Anton Yelchin, who played Pavel Chekov in the modern Star Trek movie series; Yelchin was crushed against a gate in his Southern California home by a 2015 Grand Cherokee. Accident investigators are still studying the incident but if Yelchin’s death is ultimately attributed to the gearshift issue it would be the first known fatality among 121 crashes and 41 injuries recorded by NHTSA. The regulatory agency opened an investigation last August into complaints about the unconventional shifter, in which the lever does not move through a gate but changes gear in response to being pushed forward or backward, after which it returns to the center position. It appears many drivers mistakenly think they’ve engaged park when they have not.

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The eight-speed automatic transmission—by German supplier ZF—used this shifter mechanism when it was installed in 2012–2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans and 2014–2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee models, as well as in some Audis. Later versions of the Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep models have a redesigned gear selector with defined positions for each gear. FCA previously recalled some 1.1 million sedans and SUVs with the confusing shifter, with the earlier fix being the addition of visual and auditory warnings if the driver’s door is opened with the transmission in any gear other than park.

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In the latest software fix, as reported by Jalopnik, it appears the electronically controlled shifter will automatically engage park if the driver fails to do so before attempting to exit the vehicle. Only Grand Cherokees with the 3.6-liter V-6 and the 5.7-liter V-8 engines—which account for about half of the affected vehicles—are included in this initial fix; the remaining Grand Cherokees (those equipped with the diesel engine and SRT8 models with the 6.4-liter V-8) as well as the Dodge Charger and the Chrysler 300 will get the fix later this summer.

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