A week after the death of Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin was potentially linked to the confusing gear shifter in recalled Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler vehicles, federal safety regulators revealed they have closed an investigation into the issue following Fiat Chrysler’s recall of vehicles now tied to 68 injuries and hundreds of crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed the investigation into certain model year Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Charger, and Chrysler 300 vehicles after Fiat Chrysler (FCA)—the maker of the vehicles—issued a recall involving the monostable electronic gear shifts earlier this year.

According to the notice [PDF], at the time the investigation was closed—dated June 24—686 complaints, 68 injuries, and 266 crashes had been linked to affected vehicles.

NHTSA decided to close the investigation based on FCA’s February recall of 811,586 model year 2012-2014 Dodge Charger, 2012-2014 Chrysler 300, and 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles equipped with the confusing gear shifters.




The crux of the problem is found in the design of the more intuitive electronic gear shifter. Unlike a traditional shifter, the electronic version is simply moved forward and backward to select gear. Once the gear has been selected, the shifter returns to the centered position.

This means the e-shifter lacks the typical grooves and sensation of moving the car into park, drive, or reverse that drivers are accustomed to.

While the vehicles include a chime and message that sounds when a driver opens his or her door when the gearshift isn’t in “park,” safety regulators determined this function does not protect drivers who “intentionally leave the engine running or those who do not realize that the engine is still running after an attempted shut-off.”

In the notice closing the investigation, NHTSA says it is aware of a fatality possibly related to the gear shift issue, but did not specifically name the deceased. The death of Yelchin involved a recalled 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee and is being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department and FCA, NHTSA notes.

Still, the agency says that FCA’s recall remedy—which involves the development of an “Auto Park” shift—and interim notification to vehicle owners describing the shifter issues and urging them to take safety precautions to observe parking the vehicle is enough to close the investigation into the vehicles.