New (left) and old shifters on the Jeep Grand Cherokee

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has issued a recall for 1.1 million vehicles to address an issue where the vehicle moved after owners were confused about whether the gearshift was in ‘Park’. This was caused by the ‘step-less’ gear shifter, which returns to the same position after the gear is selected, without any physical change in the position of the lever, unlike traditional automatic shifters.

The recall notice, announced in an FCA press release, affects 1.1 million vehicles equipped with ZF eight-speed gearboxes – 811,000 in the US, 52,000 in Canada, 17,000 in Mexico and the balance of 249,000 vehicles elsewhere. Vehicles affected are Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s manufactured between 2012 to 2014, and 2014 to 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees.

Apparently, the gear position confusion issue occurred despite the vehicles concerned having a warning chime if the vehicles were left in ‘Drive’ with the engine running and the door open. Owners were apparently confused because the gear shifter did not show a physical position for either ‘Park’ or ‘Drive’ positions, with only an indicator light showing gear position.

According to FCA, it is aware of 41 cases of injury that might be related to the vehicle moving after the owner had inadvertently left the gear shift in ‘Drive’, and exited the vehicle. FCA maintains that there was no fault in any of the cars’ systems or mechanicals. “The vehicles involved in these events were inspected and no evidence of equipment failure was found,” said the statement.

FCA will be recalling affected vehicles to install “additional warnings with a transmission-shift strategy to automatically prevent a vehicle from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to select ‘park’.” It is not known what measures FCA will take to remedy the situation, perhaps a software change to prevent the vehicle from moving if speed is at zero, or a hardware change to provide a tactile “feel” to the shifter.

Current versions of the affected models have all moved on to more conventional gear levers (as per the Grand Cherokee pictured above), while the Chrysler 300 now adopts a Jaguar-esque rotary gear selector.