Two FCA models are the subject of this investigation: the 2013–2016 Ram 1500 and the 2014–2016 Dodge Durango. NHTSA estimates about 1,000,000 vehicles would be affected if a recall is issued. The investigation was started following 43 complaints of vehicles rolling away while supposedly being in "park." Among the complaints were reports of 25 crashes and 9 injuries. NHTSA does point out that in every incident, the parking brake was not engaged.
A representative from FCA also gave us an official statement regarding the investigation: "FCA US is cooperating fully with NHTSA's investigation, the scope of which is limited. Other vehicles equipped with rotary shifters are not included. In accordance with prudent practice, the Company joins NHTSA in urging all drivers to use their vehicles' parking brakes."
As mentioned above, other Chrysler products with rotary shifters, such as the Pacifica minivan and 200 sedan, are not involved in this investigation. One of the key differences, as the representative told us, is that these vehicles have electronic parking brakes that automatically engage if the driver does not select park and then opens the door with the seatbelt unbuckled. The Ram 1500 and Durango feature mechanical, manually operated parking brakes and therefore cannot activate the brake automatically.
Because this is currently an investigation, an exact cause for the incidents has yet to be determined, and none of the vehicles have been recalled. It's possible there could be a mechanical defect. However, the issue could be a confusing interface causing user error, as was the case with FCA's monostable shifters, where drivers think they've put the car in park but actually haven't. Something that indicates it could be a case of confused users is that NHTSA also opened an investigation into 2012–2014 Jaguar XF and Land Rover Range Rover Evoques for similar issues. Both vehicles use a rotary shifter and have had roll-away complaints levied as well.
Even if it is a case of user error, FCA and Jaguar Land Rover may still have to recall their vehicles. In the monostable shifter recall, Chrysler fixed affected vehicles with improved warnings and new shift programming that would automatically put the car in park if the driver forgot to do so. If forgetting to put the car in park is the issue, a similar fix could be implemented.