A Recalled Jeep Is Possibly To Blame For The Death Of 'Star Trek' Actor Anton Yelchin


It was a voluntary recall for a serious issue.

Back in April we reported on an emerging problem with FCA’s newest cars, which included the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Charger, and Chrysler 300. Now it seems the issue possibly claimed the life of actor Anton Yelchin. In each of those vehicles, the traditional gated shifter was replaced with a monostable shifter. Instead of snaking the gear selector through zig zag shift gates to shift the car, a monostable shifter has only three positions, front, center, and rear.

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The shifter remains in the center position, and when the driver wants to shift into drive or reverse, they move the selector towards the rear or to the front respectively. After the selection is made, the shifter returns to the center position. To park the car, a driver must push a button but does not need to move the selector at all. It’s the same fancy setup seen in most luxury vehicles like Mercedes or BMW. The problem with the configuration and its default center position is that it is too easy for drivers to get confused as to which gear the car is in, and they may sometimes forget to push the park button. This means that an operator may leave the car in gear or in neutral when shutting off the car.

If the driver turns off the car on an incline, the car may roll down the slope and cause damage. Due to the shifter being the subject of 300 complaints, 121 accidents, and 41 injury reports, FCA voluntarily recalled 811,586 vehicles including the 2015-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 in the US. FCA’s recall was going to address the problem by adding warnings to let drivers know that the car is not in park as well as a system that stops the car if the car is in gear and the driver’s door is open. It's not know whether or not Yelchin's Jeep was brought in under the recall to correct the issue. What is known is that the 2015 Grand Cherokee rolled down his steep driveway and pinned him against a security fence.

The official cause of death has been listed as blunt trauma asphyxia. The young actor found at his home in Southern California by friends pinned between his car and a brick gate post around 1:00 A.M. Saturday morning. For its part FCA has said it will be conducting a "thorough investigation" on the crash so we will hopefully have more answers soon.