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Another lawsuit filed over GM Shift to Park feature


General Motors is facing yet another lawsuit over the Shift to Park feature found in the Chevrolet Traverse and Blazer as well as a couple of cars. This safety feature can malfunction, which effectively traps occupants in the vehicle because if it doesn’t recognize it’s in park, and the vehicle won’t let you turn it off or lock it.

The latest lawsuit, according to CarComplaints.com, alleges an error message causes the system to malfunction. For the plaintiff, this means they have to wiggle the electronic shifter until the system recognizes the vehicle is in park.

What is Shift to Park?

This new safety feature making its way throughout the automotive world, Ford and Stellantis have a similar feature, is meant to ensure the vehicle is in park before the driver exits.

While this is really common sense for most owners, it can be handy with today’s busy world filled with distractions. This feature can cut down on the embarrassment of forgetting to shift into park.

However, GM’s Shift to Park is different than the Ford and Stellantis feature in that the latter automakers’ vehicles will automatically move the shifter to park when the door opens. GM vehicles do not.

Like we demonstrated with our 2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost, opening the truck’s door moves the shifter to park as an added safety benefit.

Trapping occupants?

While Shift to Park can either be seen as a good safety feature or an annoyance depending on your viewpoint, the real issue is when it doesn’t work. Here is one example from the lawsuit:

“So when you spend this kind of money on a vehicle you expect it to hold up for several years. This car is barely a year old and for the last month I have been dealing with my SUV not recognizing when it is in park. What that means is, the vehicle will not shut off and I can not lock it and walk away. I have to sit and jiggle the gear shifter like a mad woman until it decides to recognize that it is indeed in park.” — 2018 Chevrolet Traverse owner

This owner, like others who have commented on YouTube videos and elsewhere, is frustrated in that they can’t effectively exit the vehicle when the transmission doesn’t seem to be in park. Basically, they are in limbo and can’t leave the vehicle without being in park. They could exit the vehicle without being in park, but that’s obviously unsafe. So, unless they jiggle the gear shift just right or somehow get lucky, they can’t leave the vehicle.

The fix of GM Shift to Park

According to the lawsuit, the Shift to Park failure is a known problem because GM has issued multiple technical service bulletins (TSBs) about it. However, though the repairs can include a full transmission replacement, according to a story on GMAuthority.com, that may not solve the problem, since the replacement parts may have the same defect.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, like a similar one filed in Michigan in August, 2021, alleges 2016-2019 Chevy Malibu, 2016-2019 Chevy Volt, 2018-2019 Chevy Traverse and 2019 Chevy Blazer vehicles all have this issue.

It is unclear, at this time, if newer vehicles will have any issues. However, it’s worth a note: Starting in 2022, both the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra will also have Shift to Park as a standard safety feature.

The bottom line on Shift to Park

Technology is great when it works, fits nicely into our lifestyles and has a beneficial impact on people’s lives. In this case, this feature falls flat on meeting its goals.

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Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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