2014 Durango RT

Ram, Dodge Involved in another Government Shifter Fiasco

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The NHTSA has opened a new investigation to see if the rotary shift mechanisms in the newer Ram 1500 and Dodge Durango are faulty – or if the people having issues with those vehicles just aren’t bright enough to understand how their vehicle functions.

A while back, FCA got a bunch of bad publicity when a celebrity who didn’t understand how his Jeep worked rolled backwards and killed him – leading to an investigation as to whether or not FCA’s “monostable shifter” was safe or not. In that case, I can understand the confusion, as the way that the shifter always returns to the middle position does leave some question as to what gear you are in when driving the appropriately equipped Jeep and Dodge vehicles.

However, this new investigation doesn’t relate to those unusual monostable shifters, instead focusing on the rotary dial shifters in the newer Ram 1500 and Dodge Durango after 43 or the 1,000,000+ owners cited a rollaway incident – although more than 20% of those complainants didn’t put their vehicle in park and none of them used the parking brake.

The Investigation Broken Down
I am writing this piece with the NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation in front of me, which breaks down the key facts of this Ram and Dodge issue. The NHTSA has received 43 complaints that a Ram 1500 from 2013-2016 or a Dodge Durango from 2014-2016 had been involved in a rollaway incident. Those 43 rollaway reports have led to 25 “crashes” and 8 injury incidents, and that is what most outlets are reporting.

What most outlets are not reporting is that in those 43 complaints about Ram 1500 or Dodge Durango rollaway incidents, only 34 of the drivers had put the vehicle in park. In other words, 21% of the people involved in this investigation essentially admitted that they left their truck or SUV in drive and, much to their surprise, when they got out of the vehicle – it was able to roll under its own power. That leaves 34 vehicles out of over 1,000,000 which allegedly have been able to roll after the driver put the vehicle in park.

I should point out that according to the NHTSA, “many” of those 34 people who were sure that they put their Ram or Durango in park got out of the vehicle when it was running and none of the complainants had used the parking brake. Considering that the vehicles were running when they began to roll away, you have to wonder if those drivers had actually put the vehicle in park – or if they mindless spun the knob while talking to their bestie about weekend plans, only to have the vehicle left running in a rolling gear.

In any case, the NHTSA will now spend all sorts of time and money trying to see if they can replicate the issue of putting the Dodge Durango or Ram 1500 with the rotary shifter in park and having it roll away. The drivers believe that there is a mechanical issue with their Ram or Dodge shifter, but the NHTSA will have to check to see if it is just a case of operator error.


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Very good points!!
Toyota found that a professional driver wasnt able to stop one of their suv,s even with their foot flat to the floor on the brake because the throttle stuck wide open and the floor mat buldged under the brake. Now all vehicles disengage the throttle when the brake is pressed. I suspect fca will need to use the driver seat belt occupancy monitor and if neither pedal is being pressed apply the park brake automatically.
I remember the issue with the floor mats, about six years ago. This was when Toyo had cars careering around freeways all over due to unintentional acceleration. I don't know what Chrysler will do to solve this problem -- if it really is a problem -- because all you have to do, as Patrick Rall points out in his story, is engage the parking brake and the vehicle won't move no matter what gear the vehicle may be left in. It does make sense, although most operators are used to slamming their cars into Park when they are shutting down, after a trip and usually forget there is a parking brake that should be set as well.