The hockey puck shifter may not have long for this world.
Consumer Reports recently slammed the rotary shifter found in several FCA vehicles, and now it appears as if the automaker may be reversing course on the design. In an official response to the report, shared by Automotive News, the automaker acknowledged the negative review of its shifters. “FCA US acknowledges the observations of Consumer Reports and is reviewing its shifter strategy." This comes hot on the heels of an NHTSA investigation into 1 million FCA cars.
The investigation involves the rotary shifters and whether or not they do a good job of communicating to drivers whether or not the car is in park or gear. We drove the Chrysler Pacifica and 200, both FCA cars equipped with rotary shifters. Although we never had an issue we can see how other people might find the shifter confusing. The design is nontraditional and turning a dial isn’t as clear as moving a lever forward and backward. FCA was under fire in 2016 for its automatic transmission shifters after the high-profile death of actor Anton Yelchin. Yelchin was crushed to death by his Jeep Grand Cherokee, an accident attributed by his parents to the SUV’s shifter.
Note that the shifter in the Jeep Grand Cherokee is a different design than the hockey puck-inspired design recently slammed by Consumer Reports. It's odd for a car company to face so much scrutiny and controversy over the design of its automatic shifters. Hopefully FCA either finds a fix or an alternative before new models slated to feature the rotary shifter, like the 2019 Ram 1500, go on sale.