U.S. probes 1 million Fiat Chrysler vehicles for roll-away crashes

Tue Dec 20, 2016 2:44pm EST
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. vehicle safety officials said on Tuesday they have launched an investigation into about a million Fiat Chrysler Ram pickup trucks and SUVs prompted by complaints by some owners that the vehicles rolled away and crashed after being parked.

The issues being investigated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are similar the one cited in the June death in Los Angeles of Russian-born actor Anton Yelchin of the recent "Star Trek" movies.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV 0QXR.L said it is cooperating with the government investigation covering the 2013-2016 model year Ram 1500 pickup truck and 2014-2016 Dodge Durango SUV. NHTSA said it has received reports from owners of 25 crashes and nine injuries alleging vehicle roll-away.

The agency's investigation could lead it to order a recall if the vehicles are found to be unsafe. In the meantime, the agency and Fiat Chrysler urged drivers to set the parking brake, in addition to placing the transmission into park, before exiting the vehicles.

The vehicles under investigation have an electronic rotary control for driver gear selections that differs from the shifter that Fiat Chrysler recalled earlier this year for roll-away issues.

In April, Fiat Chrysler recalled more than 1.1 million cars and SUVs worldwide because the vehicles may roll away after drivers exited, thinking they put them in park.

The problem in those recalled Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs has been tied to at least 68 injuries, 266 crashes and 308 reports of property damage, the U.S. government said. Fiat Chrysler's recall fix was a software upgrade that automatically shifts the vehicles to park in certain circumstances, and 53 percent of the vehicles have been equipped with the new software, the company said on Tuesday.

Yelchin, 27, was killed in a roll-away crash in a recalled 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Yelchin died after his SUV rolled backward in the steep driveway of his Los Angeles home and pinned him against a brick wall and a fence. In August, his parents sued Fiat Chrysler for negligence and product liability claims in California.   Continued...

Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram signage is displayed outside Bill Snethkamp dealership in Detroit, Michigan January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Joshua Lott