The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee that rolled backward down a driveway and killed the actor Anton Yelchin early Sunday was a model that Fiat Chrysler has recalled for a gearshift issue that has confused drivers, leading them to accidentally leave the car in neutral when they think it is safely in park.
Los Angeles Police investigators and the carmaker said on Monday that it was too soon to determine the cause of the accident. But Mr. Yelchin was killed after he got out of his Jeep and it rolled down his steep driveway, crushing him against a concrete-reinforced mailbox, a police spokeswoman, Liliana Preciado, said.
Ms. Preciado said she did not know if the vehicle’s transmission was in neutral. But Mr. Yelchin’s Jeep was part of a recall by Fiat Chrysler in April of almost 812,000 vehicles including the 2014 and 2015 Grand Cherokee models. That recall was prompted by an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, after complaints by car owners and reports of dozens of related injuries.
The affected vehicles, which also include 2012-14 Dodge Chargers and Chrysler 300s, use an unconventional lever to shift the automatic transmission. Instead of moving to a different position with each gear, the lever returns to a center position. The driver must look at the shifter to make sure the proper gear is selected.
When the recall was announced earlier this year, the automaker said it was aware of 41 injuries related to the gear shift problem. Since the recall was announced, the agency has received at least eight additional complaints from owners of Grand Cherokees who said their vehicles had rolled away and crashed, although no injuries were reported.
Until repairs are made, Fiat Chrysler should tell owners not to drive the vehicles and should provide loaner vehicles, Clarence Ditlow, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a consumer advocacy group, said on Monday.
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