NHTSA wants Graco to identify the total number of seats that potentially have the defect and explain why it excluded the infant seats. NHTSA, which began investigating the seats in October of 2012, said the investigation remains open. The agency said it could hold a public hearing and require Graco to add the infant seats. Graco, a division of Atlanta-based Newell Rubbermaid, says that its tests found that food or beverages can make the harness buckles in the children’s seats sticky and harder to use over time. Rear-facing infant seats aren’t being recalled because infants don’t get food or drinks on their seats, a Graco spokeswoman, Ashley Mowrey said. Graco will send replacement buckles to owners of infant seats upon request.
Ms. Mowrey said the company has issued cleaning tips for the buckles, and began sending replacement buckles to owners last summer. Graco is also sending instructions for how to replace the buckles and posting a video on its website to show parents how to replace them. In documents sent to NHTSA, Graco estimated that less than 1 percent of the seats involved in the recall have had buckles that were stuck or difficult to unlatch. There have been no reported injuries due to the defect, according to Ms. Mowrey.
NHTSA says that parents should check seat buckles and contact Graco for a free replacement. The agency also said people should get another safety seat for their children until their Graco seat is fixed. NHTSA, in the letter to Graco, also accused the company of soft-pedaling the recall with “incomplete and misleading” documents that will be seen by consumers. The agency threatened civil penalties and said that Graco should delete from its documents “any statements that may lead the public to discount the seriousness of the safety risk presented by this defect.”
In addition, NHTSA said that in January it started investigating four models of Evenflo child safety seats, which have a design similar to the recalled Graco seats and may use buckles made by the same manufacturer, AmSafe Commercial Products Inc. of Elkhart, Ind. “NHTSA is also in contact with AmSafe to identify any additional child seat manufacturers that use harness buckles of the same or similar design,” NHTSA’s statement said.
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