The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in a letter to Graco, threatened to take legal action if the company did not expand its recall to another 1.8 million seats which use the same buckles.
The federal agency began investigating the seats after parents complained of stuck buckles, some forced to cut the safety straps to free their children.
The seats in the recall are the 2009 to 2013 model years of the Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride with Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size 4 Me 70, Smartseat, Nautilus, Nautilus Elite and Argos 70.
Graco claimed the problems with the buckles was caused by when the buckles got dirty with spilled food or drink, and recommended seat owners try cleaning the buckles before requesting a replacement buckle.
A statement from the company said the problem “does not in any way affect the performance of the car seat or the effectiveness of the buckle to restrain the child. And a car seat is always the safest way to transport your child.”
While Graco said the faulty buckles had never led to injury, the NHTSA pointed out it had been named a defendant in a wrongful death suit when a 2-year-old girl was killed in a car far after a crash. The child was seated in a Graco Nautilus car seat.
The case was settled out of court.
Buckles on the recalled models were manufactured by AmSafe Commercial Products of Elkhart, Ind., as were the buckles on the 1.8 million additional seats the NHTSA wants recalled.
Graco says the additional seats, all rear-facing models, do not need to be recalled since the seat can be detached from the base in the event the buckle jams.
The 1.8 million additional seats the safety agency wants recalled are the Snugride, Snugride 30, Snugride 32, Infant Safe Seat-Step 1, Snugride 35, Tuetonia 35 and Snugride Click Connect 40.
NHTSA chided Graco for "soft-pedaling" the recall in emphasizing its voluntary nature, calling it "incomplete and misleading to both the agency and consumers."
The agency has also begun investigating seats made by Evenflo, which uses AmSafe-made buckles in several of its models.
[New York Times]