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A Shifter-Related Jeep Recall Could Shed Light on Star Trek Actor's Death

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author photo by Russ Heaps June 2016

In April, FCA voluntarily issued a Jeep recall as part of a much larger recall of more than 1.1 million vehicles. Included were large sedans and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs, including the 2015 Grand Cherokee that rolled backward, crushing actor Anton Yelchin at his Los Angeles home sometime on Sunday. Specified in the recall were model-year 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans, as well as model-year 2014 and 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokees.

As of Monday morning, authorities hadn't pinpointed what caused the actor's Grand Cherokee to roll backward, pinning him against a brick mailbox pillar and killing him. The FCA recall, however, specifying a gearshift-lever issue that causes some drivers to believe their vehicles are in park when they aren't, could shed light on the cause.

Unlike traditional automatic-transmission gearshifts engineered to remain locked in a specific position once the driver chooses a gear, the recalled vehicles use an electronic system that changes gears by moving the shift lever forward or backward, after which it returns to its middle at-rest position.

Although alert chimes sound and alert messages are delivered if the driver's door is open, the engine is running and park isn't engaged, there's been evidence that some drivers still exited their vehicles without engaging park.

At the time of FCA's Jeep recall, some injuries tied to the electronic shifter had been reported. If the gearshift is found responsible for Yelchin's accident, it would be the first death related to the shifter. Yelchin is best known for playing the role of Chekov in the current series of Star Trek films.

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A Shifter-Related Jeep Recall Could Shed Light on Star Trek Actor's Death - Autotrader