E-Shifts: Revolutionary, but Are They Reliable?

FIAT 500L gear shift

As luxury car makers strive to make driving more convenient and less hands-on, the e-shift, or monostable electronic gearshift, is becoming more prevalent. This type of shifter is smaller and more compact. It takes up less space in the front seat of your vehicle, and allows more room for cup holders and console organization. This new design features dials or buttons where a gear shift used to be, and while it’s an example of progress in action, some drivers aren’t convinced.

Where’s My Car?

In a recent article by CBS News, drivers admitted feeling hesitant and a little obsessive over making sure they hit the right gear. Hundreds of Jeep owners, in fact, have filed complaints against the company, stating their vehicles rolled away because the car wasn’t in park after all, even though they’d taken pains to put it there. Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Charger, and Chrysler 300 sedans are all currently in the hot seat for complaints received about their unreliable shift mechanisms.

According to Consumerist, by February of this year, over 100 crashes had been reported due to cars that rolled away, either due to the driver’s inability to understand the shifting mechanism, or to the mechanism’s failure to function as it should. Injuries included back and hip problems, from drivers or passengers trying to climb back into the car once it began rolling. Broken legs, facial cuts and severe bruises were also reported. In one instance, a car rolled away, only to show afterward that it was still in “park.”

The Fiat Chrysler company has since changed out the design of electronic shifters in these three 2016 models.  But is it the shifter that’s at fault? Or can blame be placed at the feet of drivers who are simply unfamiliar with the new technology?

Possibly, it’s a little of both.

What’s the Problem?

Digital shifting gives you no satisfying “clunk” to let you know that you’ve placed your car into gear. And without that reassuring jolt beneath your hand, it can be easy to mistakenly assume you’ve hit the right gear. After all — there’s no real way to tell until you look back and see your car leaving without you. Even built-in fail safes, such as an indicator noise to let you know you’re not in park, hasn’t been enough to alert drivers that disaster is about to occur.

So before you buy your next luxury-model car, make sure you bone up on the user-friendliness of its monostable electronic gearshift. It can save you a big headache, and a bit of body work, down the road, and you may just find that you’re more comfortable with a more traditional gear shift.

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