Dorel engineers who were invited to Consumer Reports to examine the results and samples from our first two rounds of testing pointed out that our test videos show differences in the positioning of the dummy and the child seat during various test runs. “Considering that the testing protocol that was used is questionable, that the dummies in the seats were clearly not installed properly, your concern [over] the safety of the seat really should be questioned,” said Vallese. She said Dorel has not seen such issues “under normal testing.”
Stockburger responds that such positioning differences are normal for child-seat installation, both in the lab and in real life. “Even though we take measures to ensure seats and dummies are installed as consistently as possible, some minor variation can and does occur,” she says. “We believe parents have a right to expect that seats will be engineered with enough margin of safety to accommodate some variation in installation and a child's position.”
The independent testing expert also observed the variations in our testing but said such differences usually do not produce big changes in structural performance.
Based on our results, we continue to believe that Cosco Highback seats manufactured on or after May 18, 2011 are safe to use. However, for seats manufactured earlier, we suggest owners who wish to err on the side of caution should replace them with a later version of the Cosco Highback or with an alternative model. Good alternatives include the Safety 1st Vantage, also by Dorel, or the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1. Both were top performers in our tests. (Consumer Reports online subscribers can find complete car seat ratings here).
Stockburger emphasized that owners who wish to switch should still use the existing seat until they have a replacement. And parents should not move from harness mode to booster-seat mode prematurely, she said, since children are better protected by a five-point harness than by the three-point car seatbelt used to restrain children in booster mode. Cosco says your child must weigh at least 40 lbs before switching to the Highback’s booster mode.
Consumer Reports is urging Dorel to provide a replacement seat to owners of pre-May 18, 2011 Cosco Highback models who request one, but the manufacturer has not agreed to do so.