“She complained about it a lot,” said Michael Farhat in describing his late wife’s feelings toward the gear selector on her 2017 Range Rover. “I can’t tell when it’s in park, I can’t tell if it’s in reverse. I can’t tell if it’s in drive.” That inability to easily deduce what mode her 5100-pound SUV was in would eventually lead to her death after being pulled underneath it while exiting the vehicle late last year. According to reports, the mother of two managed to stand up after the incident and then collapsed. She died in a Los Angeles-area hospital days later.
Shadi Farat’s husband has filed a lawsuit against Jaguar Land Rover alleging a “defective gear selector” in the vehicle, as its design depends on a dial rather than the more traditional stick configuration to change gears. Documents brought to light as a result of the lawsuit show that the Farats’ incident is the far from the first to call attention to the alleged flaw and the issue has been on Land Rover’s radar for quite some time.
A 2013 special service message issued to dealers cited “Concern with the Gearshift Module” getting “stuck in position…or has erratic or intermittent operation.” The report recommended specific repairs to be made but did not trigger a recall. Even up to 2017 – the model year of the Farhats’ Range Rover – internal company documents show that Land Rover had received hundreds of reports of vehicle rollaways involving the dial shifter design, including 28 Range Rovers.
The NHTSA opened an investigation into the issue that was subsequently closed nearly four years later after finding “operator error” to be the issue and not the vehicle. The agency “has not identified any mechanical or electronic faults” with the vehicles in question and added that if a driver opens their door while the vehicle is in any gear other than park the vehicle triggers both audio and visual warnings to alert them to the condition. Land Rover has also cited operator error in its defense in current court filings.