According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), they have denied a petition from RECARO Child Safety, LLC and that denial will likely result in a “remedy” or recall on all Recaro ProSPORT models in the near future. In the notice, only the original Recaro ProSPORT model was cited by NHTSA for having a performance-related compliance issue. The newer Recaro ProSport II and Recaro Performance Sport models were not included. Recaro Child Safety informs us that they are awaiting approval from NHTSA to proceed with a response to consumers. In the meantime, we want to assure parents that there are easy ways to avoid any possible risk indicated by NHTSA.

Potentially affected are 39,181 ProSPORT models manufactured between June 16, 2010 (inception) and Jan 31, 2013 (when production ended). Again, ProSport II and Performance Sport models are NOT affected, as we are told these newer models were introduced after a design change effective from February 1, 2013. The updated Performance Sport model continues to be one of our Recommended Carseats.

According to NHTSA, the ProSPORT model is not passing FMVSS 213 standards for head excursion limits when tested with the 6 year old dummy (which weighs 52 lbs.) if the seat is installed with just the lower LATCH anchors and is NOT tethered. This testing scenario actually conflicts with Recaro’s installation instructions which mandate that you discontinue using LATCH and switch to a lap/shoulder belt installation once the child weighs 52 lbs. Regardless, the standard is the standard and all carseats are required to pass the testing as it is specified in the standard. Just because a CR manufacturer states a specific LATCH limit or mandates a particular type of installation or belt routing does not exempt them from the requirements of FMVSS 213. In this case, Safety Standard 213 requires all forward-facing harnessed seats that are rated beyond 40 lbs. must pass minimum crash testing standards with both the 3-year-old dummy and the 6-year-old dummy, both with and without the use of the tether. With a tether, the dummy’s head excursion must not exceed 720 mm during the crash test. Without the tether, the dummy’s head excursion must not exceed 813 mm.  According to NHTSA, the ProSPORT had a head excursion measurement of 907 mm in their compliance test.

What does this mean for parents or caregivers who own a ProSPORT model?

  • If you are using this carseat in high-back booster mode (without the 5-point harness), then this type of use is not included in this notification.  Continue using your ProSport as a booster according to the instruction manual,  until we know more.
  • Similarly, if you use a lap/shoulder belt for installation with the 5-point harness, with or without the top tether, then this type of use is also not included in this notification and we believe this is an acceptable method of installation until we know more. Recaro instructions indicate that beyond 52 lbs. you must detach the tether and use the lap/shoulder belt alone for installation.
  • If you are using your Recaro ProSport in 5-point harness mode, using the top tether along with a lap-only seatbelt or lower LATCH anchors, according to the instruction manual, then your child will be well-protected and you should continue to use your seat with the top tether until we have more information.
  • If you are using your Recaro ProSport in 5-point harness mode for a child under 52 lbs. and have installed it with the lower anchors but are NOT using the top tether, then you should simply attach the top tether to an approved tether anchor if at all possible.  Use of the top tether resolves the non-compliance issue for installations with lower anchors up to 52 lbs.  All seating positions with lower anchors have a top tether as well, though you may need to check your vehicle owner’s manual if the location of the top tether is not obvious.
  • For the uncommon situation of a ProSport installed with just a lap belt or lower LATCH anchors without a top tether, and a tether is not available, you have the option to switch to a seating position that has a lap/shoulder belt or use the seat in booster mode (which also requires a lap/shoulder belt) until a remedy is provided.  We suggest children remain in a 5-point harness until they are at least 4 years and 40 lbs in general.

Again, this performance issue identified by NHTSA applies to installation with lower LATCH anchors ONLY, when not using the top tether.  It is fine to continue using your ProSport according to our suggestions above, until we learn more from NHTSA and Recaro.

It is important to point out that NHTSA doesn’t test harnessed seats with a lap/shoulder belt. So, FMVSS 213 compliance testing without the tether means installing the carseat on the test bench with either just the lower LATCH anchors or with just a lap belt.  This is not a typical situation, because in the real world, most carseats installed with seatbelts are installed with lap/shoulder belts.  This compliance testing doesn’t offer us any comparative information regarding the difference that a 3-point belt can really make in a crash. That’s too bad, especially in a case like this, because the ProSPORT (and it’s successor the Performance Sport) have a unique, open belt path design which really allows the restraint to benefit from the geometry of a lap/shoulder belt in terms of excursion.

In its petition to NHTSA received June 3, 2013, Recaro states its belief that the ProSport outperforms any comparable child restraint with regards to head excursion when installed with the lap/shoulder belt. While we don’t have any proof to support that claim, I don’t doubt that the open belt path design really helps to limit head excursion in a crash.

To reiterate, if you are a current ProSPORT owner, we suggest taking the following steps to ensure that your child is well protected in a crash until further information is available:

  • DO read the instruction manual that came with your ProSport and make sure you are installing it correctly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • DO tether the seat if you are installing with the lower LATCH anchors
  • DO tether the seat if you are installing with a lap-only seatbelt for a child weighing less than 52 lbs.
  • DO tether the seat if you are using a lap/shoulder belt to install the seat for a child under 52 lbs.
  • DO install the seat with a lap/shoulder seatbelt if your child weighs more than 52 lbs.
  • DO educate yourself on the LATCH limits of your vehicle in case those limits are lower than the 52 lbs. given by Recaro. (ProSport weighs 25 lbs.)
  • DO register your seat with Recaro or update your registration information if you have moved since you first bought the seat.

NHTSA’s conclusion dated March 31st, 2014, was worded as follows:

“NHTSA has decided that the ProSport’s noncompliance is likely to increase the risk to safety, and is therefore not inconsequential. Recaro has not met its burden of persuasion that the FMVSS No. 213 noncompliance identified in RECARO’s noncompliance information report is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. Accordingly, RECARO’s petition is hereby denied, and RECARO must notify owners, purchasers, and dealers pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118 and provide a remedy in accordance with 49 U.S.C. 30120.”

We will continue to cover this developing story and share additional information on any recall and remedy as it becomes available. Stay tuned!