Howdy, all y’all!  Greetings from Dallas/Ft. Worth TX, where I have been attending the 2010 Kidz in Motion Conference, or KIM, an annual gathering focused entirely on Child Passenger Safety (yes, I know some other conferences prefer another acronym; here at KIM, we’re still saying CPS.)  I’m Anne, also known as ketchupqueen on the car-seat.org forums.  Since Darren, Kecia, and Heather were unable to attend KIM this year, I’ve been asked to share the scoop- updates and information from manufacturers we got at this year’s conference.  My friend Christa (celtic1885 on the boards) has been helping me collect, record, and organize the news as we get it so that we can share it all with you!

KIM is a small conference by national conference standards, which means that all the participants and presenters get an opportunity to sit down together, get to know each other, and really talk.  I’ve met up with people I know and people I know of, heroes in the CPS community, CPS “celebrities” and other techs just like me (some of whom were just as star-struck when sitting next to manufacturer representatives at lunch- it’s quite a shock the first time Sarah Tilton of Britax fame brings her plate over next to where you are sitting and asks, “Mind if I sit here?”)

The small, intimate nature also means we got to ply the manufacturers with all the questions we wanted to during floor exhibits and clarify new information.  We have some interesting updates and news, so, without further ado, let’s get to it!

Regal Lager, makers of the Cybex line, sent several representatives and some demo seats.  We got a chance to see their Solution X-Fix booster, previously reviewed on CarseatBlog (we loved the child-adjustable, reclining headrest feature!), and they shared with us that they have updated their manual on several important points where they were getting confused feedback from parents, including how reclined “too reclined” is.  (The answer?  When you hear an audible “click,” it’s as far back as it can go.)  They gave me a copy for review and I found it to be one of the most well-laid-out, clear, organized, and usable owner’s manuals I’ve read.  Owners of the X-Fix who wish to obtain a copy of the newly clarified manual may go to the Cybex website (http://cybex-online.com ) or call Cybex at the number in their manual for a hard copy.

They also shared with us that the LATCH guides which come with their boosters (also reviewed on the blog) are available as an accessory for use with any seat with rigid or push-on LATCH connectors (they do not work with hook-on connectors) in any vehicle in which access to lower anchors is a problem.  The cost is $9.99.

LATCH guide package, front

LATCH guide package, back

LATCH guide demonstration

Also from Cybex, we saw a prototype of their upcoming infant seat, the ATON.  The ATON is very lightweight, one of the lightest on the market, but safety has not been sacrificed for convenience.  While the prototype we saw was one of the seats that will soon be on the European market, the reason they had it there was to demonstrate the novel mechanism on the base.  It features a unique “belt tensioner” which tightens and locks off the three-point seatbelt with minimal effort.  All that is necessary is to remove the slack from the lap belt, and push down firmly on both sides of the tensioner; a lever pops into place, the belt’s remaining slack is mechanically removed, and the base is firmly and securely installed.  The US version of the base will be very similar to the one we saw; it will not have a foot prop like the European version, and it will have a recline adjuster on the base, which the European seat does not.  The base also features steel reinforcement in the form of a bar all the way down the center of the base; the entire docking mechanism by which the car seat is structurally connected to the base when in the car is composed of steel instead of plastic for strength and security.

Cybex ATON infant seat

Cybex ATON

ATON base with seatbelt tensioner open

ATON base with seatbelt tensioner in use

Another unique feature of the ATON will be the release mechanism.  In order to lighten the part of the seat that is carried, the release is on the base, not the car seat itself.  It is unique in that it has a two-step release to remove the seat from the base, as a safety feature to prevent young siblings of the baby from removing the seat.  While it seems like the idea of a two-step release lever might be confusing at first thought, when I tried the lever I found it very intuitive and simple to learn; it would quickly become a habit and simple to use, while being complex enough to foil little hands that tried to push the button and I think it will do a very good job of preventing accidental release.

Two-step release mechanism on Cybex ATON

The ATON will be released first on the European market, but it should quickly come to the US.  Regal Lager representatives gave us an expected ship date for the US of February, 2011.

By the way, did you know that the very small staff at Cybex includes 10 CPSTs and a CPS Technician-Instructor?  That’s a very high percentage of techs when you have such a small staff!

The Orbit Baby booth had an eye-catching display, a video demonstration, and their representatives were ever-present at the booth and helpful.  We were excited about two things we learned at the booth.  While we had known that the Orbit Baby G2 Infant seat was released in Canada last May (limited release–they are starting with about 15 retailers, they told us), we hadn’t known that this is the first seat to be cross-border approved.  That’s right, the seats being sold in Canada and the US are exactly the same, and feature labeling for both countries, and are therefore legal in both!  (Orbit Baby was very proud of this accomplishment.  It was a long process, and involved much reading of laws, and a special exemption from NHTSA in order to put metric units first on the label, since that is required in Canada.)  We thought it was important to get some pictures so technicians or parents encountering this seat on either side of our North American border will know what the labels look like and that the seat is legal to use in both countries.  In these pictures, you can see the labeling that states both that the seat meets Federal standards in the US, and that in Canada, it meets the standards there as well.  (We double checked to make sure that this is, indeed, the exact wording required by US law; we didn’t doubt the Canadian wording because we’re not Canadian and so it looked good to us.)  We also took a picture of the maple leaf insignia, which is required on Canadian seats.

Label text on cross-border approved Orbit Baby Infant seat

Maple leaf sticker on cross-border approved Orbit Baby Infant seat

Orbit Baby also demonstrated for us the foot muff for their seats, which has been crash tested with their seats and is sold as an accessory for their seats and stroller seat.  They feature Orbit’s natural, wool-based flame retardant material, which contains no chemical retardants while meeting Federal standards, and come in two sizes (small and large, for use with the Infant and Toddler seats as well as the Stroller seat.)  I’d say it was actually even cushier than the popular, non-regulated, not recommended “Bundle Me” product, and is safe to use with their seats.

Orbit Baby's crash-tested "footmuff"

Recaro was there showing off their new Pro line of seats, the ProBooster, ProSport, and ProRide.  They also had the Vivo.  The Vivo has not been discontinued; it got such good press for its IIHS Best Bet rated belt positioning that demand is very high.  They expect a new shipment of Vivos from China in September (they are currently backordered.)  The Pro line seats are all made in the US, but the Vivo will continue to be produced in China.

Recaro Vivo and ProSport

Recaro ProBooster and ProRide

The USAA Educational foundation was there, showing us some of the many pamphlets they produce and distribute for free to promote safety and other topics.  We were informed that their car seat installation pamphlet has had a few updates–a new photo, a few added or clarified statements.  We were happy to see a recommendation on the rear-facing seats page recommending rear-facing as long as possible.  New booklets will be finished printing and ready to ship in 3-4 weeks (by the 1st of October or so.)

We didn’t get to talk to the rep from Dorel but we did see some of their newer seats.  We got a good look at the new Target-exclusive 40 lbs. rear-facing Scenera and were impressed that another slot has been added to the shell for this version of the seat (3 inches taller according to Dorel, we were unfortunately unable to measure for ourselves.)  We were able to see a few new covers too, including a cute one for the OnBoard.

We also got a little information at the manufacturers’ presentation from Dorel about upcoming changes to their seats and new releases.  The Complete Air Convertible will soon harness to 65 lbs. forward-facing.  The 3-in-1′s base has been redesigned and there is no longer a “handle” under which the straps must be routed.  By the end of the year, all current versions of the onBoard infant seat will be rated from 4 lbs.  The Rumi Air combination seat will feature a “truss” system, which allows for a unique mix of rigidity and flexibility in a crash for better protection.  And of course, new colors will soon be coming on most of the seats (we loved the purple-flowered Complete Air cover!)

Clek demonstrated the recline on the Oobr, which maxes out at 12 degrees, and explained that either the head or the bottom must be in contact with the seat, all the way down is not necessary.  This could make it a good fit in some vehicles with non-removable, forward-protruding headrests.  We were told that a forward-facing 5 point harness seat from Clek WILL be released next year!  Clek has also retroactively rated the Olli and Ozzi to 120 lbs.  All new Ollis and Ozzis are labeled to 120, and older models may be used beyond their labeled weight due to this retroactive change.

Stay tuned for the next post, we’ll have more picures and information!