The LA Police Department continues to investigate a vehicle safety recall in determining the events leading up to the death of Hollywood actor Anton Yelchin earlier this week. Yelchin died on Sunday when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backward down his steep driveway and crushed him against a metal security fence and a concrete mailbox. Fait Chrysler had recalled the vehicle for a gearshift issue that has confused drivers, leading them to accidentally leave the car in neutral when they think it is safely in park. Investigators at the scene of Yelchin’s death determined that his vehicle was found in neutral.
Fiat Chrysler has been a target in the government’s recent efforts to penalize automakers for delay and avoidance in matters of vehicle safety. In 2015, Fiat Chrysler paid $105 million in penalty fees for failing to conduct recalls and complete repairs in a timely fashion.
An official recall of the gear shifter has not yet been offered to drivers of the effected vehicles. Earlier this year, Fiat Chrysler issued warning letters to all owners, making them aware of the potential gear shift issue. The automaker has not made repair parts available to correct the defect, leaving drivers unable to fix the problem. When replacement parts are available, vehicle owners will be able to bring their vehicle back to the dealership for a free repair.
The Center for Auto Safety Executive Director Clarence Ditlow said, “There was no sense of urgency on Chrysler’s part or NHTSA’s part given the potential for death or injury.” Chrysler has delayed recalls in almost two dozen cases going back to 2013 effecting millions of vehicles. NHTSA Head Mark Rosekind said, “This represents a significant failure to meet a manufacturer’s safety responsibilities.”
The effected Chrysler vehicles are the 2014-15 Jeep Grand Cherokees like Yelchin’s, 2012-14 Dodge Chargers, and Chrysler 300s. These vehicles use an unconventional lever and electronic gear shifter as opposed to a conventional gear shifter that slides along a track and clicks into varied positions. Instead of moving to a different position with each gear, the electronic gear shifter always returns to the upright position and indicates the current gear with lights, making it confusing for drivers to know whether or not their car is in park. At this time, Fiat Chrysler accepts no responsibility in the accident and extends condolences to Yelchin’s family and friends.
If you wish to learn more about safety recalls and automaker responsibility in matters of vehicle safety, contact Louisville, KY auto product liability lawyer Tad Thomas of Thomas Law Offices for more information. You can also visit our auto product liability page to find out about similar cases and lawsuits.
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