Under pressure from U.S. safety regulators, Graco Children's Products is recalling 1.9 million infant car seats in what is now the largest seat recall in American history.
Graco announced the recall Tuesday, ending a five-month battle between the company and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over claims of a faulty buckle that can make it difficult to free a child during an emergency.
In a report posted on the safety agency's website, Graco outlined its decision to recall the additional seats after further investigation revealed a "higher than typical level of difficulty” in unlatching the buckle.
Earlier this year, Graco recalled 4.2 million toddler seats for similar reasons, but denied that the buckle would be a safety issue for the infant car seats because the seat had a different design.
Safety regulators disagreed, arguing that "the hazards and risks involved in the delay of extricating a child from a rear-facing infant car seat in any emergency situation are significantly increased and rise to the level of unreasonable risk when the harness buckle is difficult to open or is stuck in a latched condition.”
Graco and federal regulators went back and forth over whether the infant seat should be recalled along with toddler seats. Graco said toddler seat buckles might not properly disengage when older children gum up the buckle with food and drink, a situation that would not happen with infants.
NHTSA cited reports of parents having to cut the harness of their infant car seats because of faulty buckles.
When the company announced the initial recall in February that did not include the infant seats NHTSA threatened civil penalties. The spat could have unfolded into public hearings and a possible court case.
The company says there have been no injuries reported because of the problem.
Ashley Mowrey, a spokesperson for the company, said the recall comes after months of sharing data and research with NHTSA.
Graco said the latest recall, which brings the company's total to 6.1 million seats, “is in the best interest of consumers and underscores our shared commitment to child passenger safety.”
In 2010, the company recalled about 2 million baby strollers sold before 2008 at major U.S. retailers after four infants died of strangulation.
The repair for the seats involves replacing the defective buckle, which Graco will provide free to customers.
Infant-seat models covered by Tuesday's recall include the SnugRide, SnugRide Classic Connect (including Classic Connect 30 and 35), SnugRide 30, SnugRide 35, SnugRide Click Connect 40 and Aprica A30.
The Evenflo Co., another child-seat manufacturer, used the same buckle as Graco and had recalled 1.4 million of its own toddler car seats this year. Like Graco, Evenflo had denounced the goverment's order to recall its infant car seats, and it was not clear Tuesday if Evenflo would also change its mind regarding the infant seats.