WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into an estimated 856,284 2014-'15 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs and 2012-'14 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans with the 3.6-liter V6 engine for a rollaway risk.
"Drivers may exit the vehicle when the engine is running and the transmission is not in Park, resulting in unattended vehicle rollaway," said NHTSA in a posting on its website. "Rollaway incidents may result in serious injuries to the driver or passengers as they exit the vehicle or to other pedestrians in the path of the rolling vehicle."
The affected Grand Cherokee SUVs are equipped with Monostable electronic gearshift assemblies supplied by ZF Group.
NHTSA said an earlier investigation indicates that "operation of the Monostable shifter is not intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection."
Fiat-Chrysler is cooperating fully with the investigation, wrote Eric Mayne, a company spokesman, in response to a query from Edmunds on Sunday.
Consumers reported 306 incidents to NHTSA of vehicle rollaway following intended shifts to Park in the 2014-'15 Grand Cherokee.
"These resulted in 117 alleged crashes," NHTSA said. "Twenty-eight of the crashes reportedly caused injuries, including three with a fractured pelvis and four others requiring some degree of hospitalization (a ruptured bladder, fractured kneecap, broken ribs, damage to the right leg). Other injuries include reports of a broken nose, facial lacerations requiring stitches, sprained knees, severe bruising and trauma to legs."
The 2012-'14 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans equipped with 3.6-liter V6 engines use the same ZF Monostable shifter.
NHTSA said it received eight complaints, including four crashes and two injuries, linked to these cars.
Fiat-Chrysler changed the shifter design in the 2016 Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Federal safety regulators have opened an "engineering analysis" into the vehicles. Such an action sometimes precedes a vehicle recall, but the vehicles have not been recalled at this point.
Edmunds says: Owners of these vehicles will have to wait for federal safety regulators to finish their probe before taking any action. But if you have an immediate concern, it's best to contact your dealer now.