The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a recall for hundreds of thousands of 2014-2019 Ram ProMaster vans with a 3.6-liter engine. Campaign No. 20V036000 states that the shifter cables on these vans could disconnect from the transmission, which could lead to a variety of unsafe situations. The new recall comes after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has issued transmission-related recalls for several other brand products in recent years.
Jeep and FCA were thrust into the spotlight in 2016, when "Star Trek" actor Anton Yelchin's shocking death was linked to what was deemed an unintuitive shifter design. FCA recalled more than 1 million vehicles with a rocker-style eight-speed ZF shifter, including Jeep Grand Cherokees, Chrysler 300s, and Dodge Chargers. The design was unclear to some, and that confusion lead to dangerous rollaways. In 2017, FCA was back in the news when it announced a transmission recall for 1.8 million Ram trucks that had a faulty interlock that could result in the transmission shifting out of park. And in 2019, FCA announced two more transmission recalls, this time for 320,000 Dodge Darts and 51,788 Fiat 500s, both of which had cable bushings that could degrade due to temperature and moisture.
FCA's unsettling pattern has bled into the new decade, as 222,207 ProMasters have been recalled for an entirely separate transmission issue that could once again lead to a rollaway risk. The NHTSA estimates approximately three percent of these vehicles could have built with a transmission gear shift cable that was kinked during production. According to the recall document, "the vehicle population was determined to include all ProMaster vehicles equipped with a 3.6-liter engine from the beginning of 2014 MY production on April 23, 2013, through September 14, 2019, when the vehicle manufacturing process was revised."
If the shift cable separates, the shifter is no longer connected to the transmission. The driver, then, would not be able to shift properly, or the transmission could be in a different position than believed. If the driver thinks the vehicle is parked, but it is actually still in drive or neutral, the vehicle could unintentionally move.
As a precautionary measure until the vans are checked and fixed, FCA suggests owners use the parking brake when parking these vehicles. FCA will begin notifying owners on March 13, 2020 and plans to replace the damaged parts free of charge.