Why Won't Graco Recall 1.83 Million Potentially Defective Car Seats?

March 7, 2014

General Motors isn't the only company being grilled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. According to Detroit News, the agency is also asking questions of Graco Children's Products, which is refusing to recall 1.83 million potentially defective child safety seats.

In February, Graco issued a recall for 3.77 seats manufactured between 2009 and 2013. That recall affected a range of models, including the Argos 70, Classic Ride 50, Comfort Sport, Cozy Cline, My Ride 65, My Ride 70, My Ride with Safety Surround, Nautilus, Nautilus Elite, Size 4 Me 70, and Smartseat.

However, NHTSA had originally asked Graco to recall 5.6 million seats. The agency has asked Graco to explain why it didn't recall the additional 1.83 million seats included in its request. Based on NHTSA documents, the as-yet unrecalled models appear to be the Smartseat, Snugride, Sungride 22, Snugride 30, Snugride 32, Snugride 35, and Snug Ride Click Connect 40.

All told, NHTSA says that Graco has received more than 6,100 complaints about the aforementioned car seats. In most cases, owners found it difficult to disengage the buckle on those seats, making it extremely difficult to remove the child. According to the investigation file:  

Consumers state that excessive force and/or effort is required to push the button to unlatch the harness. Some reported not being able to unlatch the buckle at all and were forced to remove their child by pulling them through the still buckled harness, or in some cases, by cutting the harness straps.

It appears that Graco is blaming the problem on food and drink that children spill on the buckles, which makes them difficult to operate. However, NHTSA says that it's "completely reasonable" to assume that children will eat and drink in their car seats and that Graco should've foreseen this issue. Graco admits that the problem affects roughly one in every 1,000 seats. 

NHTSA has ordered Graco to submit documents explaining in detail why it has chosen not to include the additional 1.83 million safety seats. It has also launched an investigation into four other Graco seats that use a similar buckle.

In the meantime, Graco is facing a class-action lawsuit in California over the flawed car seats. Separately, the company is also being sued by a California family who allege that their two-year-old died in a car fire because they couldn't remove the child from a Graco car seat. 

If you own a Graco car seat and want to know whether it's being recalled or investigated, you'll find complete details on NHTSA's website.

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