You had to figure that this might happen when BMW decided to reinvent the gearshift lever for the 2002 7 Series. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been investigating the 2002-2008 7 Series since last fall, and has now "upgraded the probe to an engineering analysis," according to an Associated Press report in The Detroit News. The Feds have found 16 crashes and five injuries related to transmission issues, and received 50 complaints about the issue, according to the report.

NHTSA's Monthly Defect Investigations Report calls the problem "Vehicle Rollaway Allegations," which are likely related to the design of the gear selector in the E65/E66. This generation of the 7 Series moved the traditional gearshift lever from the floor console to the steering column to make more room in the center console. In doing so, BMW abandoned the traditional P-R-N-D layout and adopted an electronic push-button selector for "Park." The AP says at least some of the problems may be related to owners not realizing their cars were in neutral instead of park.

Our own experience has shown that even in more recent BMW's with floor-console-mounted shifters, it can be difficult to tell whether the vehicle is in Park or not, and we find the BMW gear selector as a whole to be non-intuitive – we're frankly surprised that NHTSA has not received more than 50 complaints concerning the issue.


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  • 47 Comments
      Custom Bikes
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's the same crapy application as the one in the Prius. Every time I drive one I have to remind myself to push that little stupid button. This is a solution to a problem that did not exist before the damn thing was invented.
      rmkensington
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sounds like the drivers dont know their letters. P looks a lot like D if your half-blind.
        ckm
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rmkensington
        It's not that - Park is actually a separate button you have to push to engage park. Why it's not just another notch on the lever is a mystery, it's totally counter intuitive. Here's a pic - http://images.thecarconnection.com/med/2007-bmw-7-series-4-door-sedan-750i-gear-shift_100277932_m.jpg The Prius is even worse - http://kpbs.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/photos/2010/03/10/priusgear_t700.jpg?f40c0e74b997dbb01ce524758e0d04a31382c8af No Park option at all, it's a button on the dashboard... http://www.communitycar.com/OnlineOrientation/drive/prius
          • 2 Years Ago
          @ckm
          [blocked]
          Bruce Lee
          • 2 Years Ago
          @ckm
          Thing is that the Prius will just override your stupidity if you forget since shutting off the car automatically engages the parking gear. BMW's system actually requires people pushing a button no other car does.
      wat
      • 2 Years Ago
      As an owner with a 2012 BMW, I can tell you the floor-mounted shifter is terrible. Why they couldn't just do a traditional gate shifter is beyond me. They want everything to be an over-sized button. See: both stalks on steering wheel, parking brake, trunk button, glove box button, etc.. When I first got this car, I almost drove straight into the wall. I'm used to shifting autos without ever looking at them, since they are all traditionally PRND. In this case, it is RPND. You have to shift up to reverse. Don't get me started about the P, a button, not being recognized if you don't push it with authority.
      me
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mercedes has used the same gearshift design in the ML series. It's not like the car doesn't also have an E-brake. I almost feel bad for auto manufacturers forced to make changes because of some customers who are too inept to be driving.
      yrtep
      • 2 Years Ago
      The shifter is still a mess. I have a 2012 X5: love the car but not a day goes by where I don't find the shifter annoying. For example: Why do you have to push the shifter forward to put the car in reverse?
        BG
        • 2 Years Ago
        @yrtep
        Maybe the manual transmission option (if it existed) would have been a more logical choice.
        Papi L-Gee
        • 2 Years Ago
        @yrtep
        I've driven my mother's '11 535i on many an occasion and I must agree.
      Justin B.
      • 2 Years Ago
      While it has nothing to do with the article, I have to say that this car did not age well at all. Wow.
      adam1keith1980
      • 2 Years Ago
      If NHTSA's engineering analysis found the gearshift design to be improper, would they force BMW to retrofit gear shifters in all E65/E66? On the other hand, if I were buying a 2002 7-series today, the gearshift design would be the last thing I would worry about.
      Aki. I
      • 2 Years Ago
      Another reason to keep fighting for that 3rd pedal and a shifter
      bmw_sucks
      • 2 Years Ago
      The BMW joystick is a solution looking for a problem. Not only is there no advantage of using that, I think it is detrimental. In my other car, I could tell if the shifter was in P, just by it's position. Now, I have to look at the little LCD display or look at the little green icons on the shifter itself. I know it only takes an extra second, but I find it annoying.
        bmw_sucks
        • 2 Years Ago
        @bmw_sucks
        on top of that, the P button is not ergonomically placed. Instead of putting it on top, they should have placed it on front, or better yet, stuck to the conventional design.
      trzjax
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wow, 7 is seriously ugly in that pic...
      donnieorama
      • 2 Years Ago
      'BMW: The Overcomplicated Driving Machine.'
      88
      • 2 Years Ago
      That front end looks like a sad droopy face.... It has a BMW logo attached which would explain it!
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