Fiat Chrysler scrambling to fix roll away problem

'Star Trek' actor dies in freak accident
'Star Trek' actor dies in freak accident

Fiat Chrysler is scrambling to fix a design problem in some of its gear shifters tied to dozens of injuries.

The company is also investigating whether the flaw was involved in the death of "Star Trek" actor Anton Yelchin.

The issue is that cars are at risk of rolling away because drivers are confused what gear the vehicle is in, and they get out with it still in Neutral rather than in Park.

Yelchin died Sunday when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled down the driveway and he was crushed between the car and a brick pillar.

Fiat Chrysler said it is investigating the death and that it is too soon to say if the problem caused the accident. Two months ago, it started sending recall notices to more than 1 million Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge owners but has yet to report a finalized fix.

It initially said it could be the end of the year before it came up with a fix. But Fiat Chrysler now says it "anticipates having the software updates required to remedy the above vehicles no later than July/August of 2016." Some dealers are reporting they'll be ready to perform the fix as soon as next week.

"We continue to expedite this campaign in the best interests of our customers," said spokesman Eric Mayne.

anton yelchin gate
The gate where actor Anton Yelchin was killed when he was struck by his Grand Cherokee after it rolled away.

Records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show more than 300 consumer complaints about the problem. Those incidents resulted in 212 crashes and 41 injuries, including at least seven requiring hospitalization. Those serious injuries included three people who fractured their pelvis, a ruptured bladder, a fractured kneecap, broken ribs and an injured right leg.

Related: Why car gear shifters are so confusing

That is a fairly large injury toll for a recall. Most take place before any reported injuries.

But delays between when a problem is detected and when it can be repaired are unfortunately not uncommon.

An extreme example is the recall of Takata airbags at risk of exploding. It's the largest auto recall in history, and at least 13 people have died.

Some drivers will have to wait until 2019 before they get new airbags. Some cars being built today have the defective airbags that will need to be replaced at some point in the future. A limited supply of replacement airbags is the reason for the delay in replacing all the airbags.

Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) announced Tuesday it will stop building cars with the defective Takata airbags by next week.

Related: Rental companies now have to repair recalled cars

Two years ago, it was months before GM (GM) had the parts it needed to begin repairs of an ignition switch that was eventually tied to at least 124 deaths.

And Volkswagen (VLKAY) has yet to reach an agreement with U.S. environmental regulators about how to fix a diesel emission system. VW has admitted that it installed 800,000 U.S. diesel cars with software that tricked emissions tests. That problem was first discovered in September 2015.

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