Daimler is recalling nearly 50,000 Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner Sprinter vans for faulty powertrain programming that can allow the vehicle to move while the transmission selector is in “park,” the company announced last month, following an NHTSA investigation launched last summer. While recalls are commonplace — especially in the face of increasing scrutiny from U.S. regulators over the past decade — it’s unusual for their root causes to a mystery. In this case, however, Daimler’s finest appear to be stumped.
The investigation was launched after 11 reports of Sprinter vans rolling away while in “park,” and to this day, Daimler’s engineers still aren’t exactly certain why it’s happening. So far, it has only been documented in cases where drivers fail to follow what Mercedes-Benz calls the “proper procedures” for parking their vans. And if that sounds like the most German issue you’ve ever heard of, trust us, we’re not making this up. Here it is, straight from Daimler’s recall report:
“During extensive testing, MBAG observed a rare and temporary park lock function error on a small number of vehicles,” it said. “Yet despite Mercedes-Benz’s intensive investigation, multifaceted testing, analyses, and evaluation, no clear and specific technical root cause for the rare phenomenon has yet been identified and confirmed.”
“The defect is a rare and temporary park lock system error that could increase the risk of a vehicle rollaway, but only in the specific circumstance that the driver does not follow the proper, prescribed steps for safe parking (emphasized in the operator’s manual) and instead exits the driver’s seat without setting the parking brake. If the driver does not properly secure the vehicle in accordance with parking instructions in the operator’s manual (including essential setting of the parking brake), then in certain circumstances it is possible that the vehicle could roll from its parked position and therefore increase the risk of an accident.”
The campaign covers 2019-2021 Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner Sprinter 1500, 2500, 3500 and 4500 models with the manual parking brake and seven-speed automatic transmission. Since Daimler has not yet identified the root cause of the issue, no remedy has yet been prescribed. Customers will be notified starting later in January. For now, the easiest way to protect yourself (and those around you) is to remember to set your parking brake. Yep, it’s there for a reason.