Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said on Monday it would investigate a crash that killed “Star Trek” actor Anton Yelchin in his recalled 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Yelchin was killed when the SUV rolled away and pinned him against a fence in Los Angeles, police said on Sunday. Fiat Chrysler in April recalled more than 1.1 million cars and SUVs worldwide because vehicles may roll away after drivers exit, an issue linked to 41 injuries, 212 crashes and 308 reports of property damage.
In a May 24 letter to dealers, Fiat Chrysler said it anticipated having the software updates required to fix the vehicles no later than July or August. The company previously had told owners it hoped to come up with a “permanent” remedy by the fourth quarter.
Fiat Chrysler spokesman Eric Mayne said the company would conduct a “thorough investigation” of Yelchin’s accident. “It is premature to speculate on its cause at this time,” he added.
The company said in April that the recall was linked to 700 incidents because drivers mistakenly believed they had placed the vehicles in park before exiting.
Fiat Chrysler said some drivers might have been confused by the electronic gearshift system, which moves more like a joystick than along a gate path like conventional gear selectors.
The company said in April that it planned to update the vehicles to automatically prevent them from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to put the vehicle in park.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which upgraded a probe into the rollaway injuries and complaints in February, said in April that the shifter was “clearly a safety issue” leading to hundreds of crashes and dozens of injuries.
A NHTSA spokeswoman had no immediate comment on Monday.
Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman Jane Kim said in a phone interview on Monday that investigators were aware of the recall issue with the Jeep and were looking at whether that played any role in the fatality, among other possible factors.
Fiat Chrysler sent a letter to vehicle owners after announcing the recall in April, warning them to make sure the vehicles are in park.
NHTSA said in April that testing of the shifter found it was “not intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver, increasing the potential for unintended gear selection.”
Many of the crashes occurred soon after the vehicles were purchased. One complaint said that in September, a new Grand Cherokee in Leonardtown, Maryland, rolled forward and struck headstones in a cemetery.
Also last year, a Michigan owner put his 2015 Jeep SUV into park to go into a gas station. The SUV began rolling backwards and hit another parked vehicle, injuring a passenger.—Reuters