Ramblings for Nov. 1, 1999

October 31, 1999

Volvo, Ford and Fisher-Price pioneer new child seats

Despite all the care and attention paid by parents to protecting their progeny, surveys have shown that up to 85 percent of children are not properly strapped into child seats. A lot of this is the result of confusion, but bad design is equally responsible. Still, most serious injuries result from not using child safety seats at all. Through the efforts of Volvo, Ford and Fisher-Price, parents will have an easier task. They have developed car seats to comply with new federal regulations (referred to as the Universal Child Safety Seat System – "UCSSS" or "ISOFIX"). The new regulations require lower attachment hardware on all vehicles and child restraints manufactured after September 2002.

Most child car seat manufacturers now equip their car seats with an upper tether strap, and cars have clips to accept them either as standard equipment or available through dealers at little or no cost. All Windstars and Focuses now are equipped with the lower anchors, and Ford will phase them in over the next several years on all vehicle lines worldwide. The Fisher-Price Safe Embrace Convertible Car Seat II includes two flexible lower attachments for use with the anchor points.

Volvo’s ISOFIX child seat is a system of two seats, supporting frame, and attaching points engineered into the vehicle. The three major components are: (1) a small infant seat with a built-in handle that makes it easy to carry the seat with the child in it; (2) a larger seat for children between the ages of nine months and three years that features a sleeping position and an improved belt design; and (3) a supporting frame with the ISOFIX attachment brackets, which are permanently mounted between the backrest and the seat cushion. The attachment brackets can be installed at the factory or at Volvo retailers. Volvo's ISOFIX child seat system will debut early next year on the company’s new wagon series and all future Volvo cars.

Since 1970, Volvo has been studying all accidents involving new Volvo cars in Sweden. In 28,000 accidents, of the 421 children who were facing to the rear, all survived and only three were injured.


Goodyear bows out of CART, IRL

In a surprising but understandable move, Goodyear has announced that it will not return as a race-tire supplier to the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and Indy Racing League (IRL) series next year. "The company has enjoyed a long and successful history in motorsports competition around the world," said Stu Grant, Goodyear's general manager for global race tires. "Our long-standing commitment to racing has made this an agonizing decision. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the significant capital and resources the company devotes to CART and IRL. Our decision is based, in part, on open-wheel racing's ongoing split between CART and IRL." No reconciliation between the two groups is in sight and Goodyear has been under attack from shareholders. The company was crippled by a rapacious hostile takeover attempt that caused it to become more frugal, especially in its racing programs.

Now celebrating a 101-year history, Goodyear has been the most prolific and successful racing-tire brand since the 1960s. Eighteen engineering associates will transfer to other positions within Goodyear. While designers find that tires are their quickest and easiest way to gain speed, it is often at the expense of safety and good competition. Some of the closest racing occurs when a series only has one tire manufacturer. Goodyear will remain the sole supplier to NASCAR and will also supply tires to the World of Outlaws, NHRA, IROC, IHRA, SCCA, USRRC, ALMS and many other forms of auto racing. The company made a decision in 1998 to exit Formula One, also in the wake of rules controversy, when the sanctioning body tried to use tires to control competition and increasing speeds. Grant explained, "We cannot rule out Goodyear's future participation in North American open-wheel racing, particularly if CART and IRL reconcile, nor will we rule out a return to F1." With a strategic alliance with Japan's Sumitomo Rubber and the company's European Dunlop brand, Goodyear is the world's largest tire manufacturer.


Plymouth pales

There is more evidence that Plymouth may be on its way out as a brand. Chrysler is introducing models, such as the Chrysler Cirrus LX, that have the smaller engines and lower equipment levels formerly reserved for that value brand. Since Chrysler and Plymouth are paired at dealerships, dropping that name would require some model repositioning.


Bob welcomes comments or questions at bstorck@sprynet.com.

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