Graco, a subsidiary of Newell Rubbermaid, is voluntarily recalling 1.9 million infant car seats that have faulty harness buckles. The buckles can become difficult to unlatch in the event of an emergency.
Graco had been in discussions with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which had pushed for action on the matter.
Consumers can visit this Graco website to determine if they own one of the recalled models. If so, the owner can have a free replacement buckle shipped to them. Graco will also conduct a notification campaign via mail to all consumers that completed registration cards for the affected seats. The infant car seats were made between July 2010 and May 2013.
Graco, based in Exton, Pa., has already hit the recall button this year. In February, it recalled 4.2 million forward-facing toddler car seats for the same buckle issue. At the time, Graco resisted the additional recall on the rear-facing infant car seats, claiming that the model incorporated a quickly detaching base that would make removing the entire seat possible in an emergency. The NHTSA did not buy that argument and left open the possibility of public hearings and a court case.
The buckle, known as the QTI model, was supplied to Graco by AmSafe Commercial Products of Elkhart, Ind. It is an off-the-shelf product and is also used by other car seat makers. Graco used this buckle in several convertible and harnessed booster seats and in the infant seats under recall.
The QTI buckle has a hinged release button, which must be depressed inward at the top portion of the button for maximum effectiveness and speed of release. During its internal investigation, Graco found that AmSafe sculpted the release button to guide the caregiver's finger toward the center of the button. Thus, users would tend to press the center of the button and encounter much more resistance in trying to quickly unlatch the buckle, a critical factor in an emergency scenario.
The company also found that the position of the buckle -- between the child's thighs -- could also create an impediment to quick release, especially in larger children. Thirdly, the company determined that foreign debris such as liquids and food particles could foul the latch mechanism, making it even more difficult to operate.
Michael Polk, Newell Rubbermaid's president and CEO, said "We are pleased to have reached a resolution of the infant car seat buckle investigation with NHTSA, consistent with the financial assumptions we communicated with our first quarter earnings announcement."