According to the New York Times, Graco is recalling 3.8 million car seats because of faulty buckles. Federal regulators said the recall did not go far enough, and have asked for an additional 1.8 million seats to be included because they use the same buckles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told Graco in a letter that unless those additional seats were fixed it would take legal action to force a recall.
The seats in the recall are the 2009 to 2013 model years of the Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride with Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size 4 Me 70, Smartseat, Nautilus, Nautilus Elite and Argos 70.
The investigation into the seats began in 2012 after some parents complained to regulators that they had to cut the straps to remove their children.
One parent complained to the safety agency that it took 45 minutes to free her toddler and that worked only after the straps were loosened and the girl was squeezed between them. “It is extremely unnerving to have this happen to your child,” she wrote. “What if we had a car fire or a car accident?”
Graco told regulators that the problems with the buckles stemmed from contamination with “foreign material such as food or dried liquids.” But investigators dismissed that explanation, saying that buckles getting dirty with food and drink was “completely foreseeable,” and not an excuse.
In a statement Tuesday, Graco maintained that the problem with the buckles “does not in any way affect the performance of the car seat or the effectiveness of the buckle to restrain the child. And a car seat is always the safest way to transport your child.”
While Graco said it was not aware of any injuries resulting from the problem with the buckles, a letter from NHTSA to Graco on Jan. 14 noted that it was a defendant in a wrongful death suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court over “the death of a 2-year-old child, Leiana Ramirez, who was killed in a car fire following a motor vehicle accident.” The girl, the agency said, “was seated in a Graco Nautilus car seat, of the subject seats.”
A Graco spokeswoman, Ashley Mowrey, wrote in an email, “The case was resolved pursuant to a confidential settlement agreement.” The recalled buckles were made by AmSafe Commercial Products of Elkhart, Ind. AmSafe did not respond to a request for comment.
The 1.8 million additional seats the safety agency wants recalled are rear-facing models used for infants. They are the Snugride, Snugride 30, Snugride 32, Infant Safe Seat-Step 1, Snugride 35, Tuetonia 35, and Snugride Click Connect 40.
Graco has insisted that those seats do not need to be recalled because if a buckle jammed, the seat containing the infant could be detached from the base, which is anchored to the vehicle, Ms. Mowrey said in a phone interview. She said parents who had trouble with buckles could get free replacements by calling Graco.