Monday, August 31, 2009

The Orbit Baby Debate: CEO Joseph Hei faces off with Consumer Reports on failed car seat tests!

You all probably know how much I love my Orbit Baby Infant System, but I recently received an upsetting email from Orbit Baby CEO Joseph Hei. It appears the car seat failed Consumer Reports' safety testing. Below is the email all Orbit owners received. As for our family, we are still using our Orbit system, but rechecked the strap settings and the base station in the car. Ironically, I had been planning another post to extoll more virtues of the Orbit, such as having the only non-PVC rainshield available on the market and being Oeko-Tex 100 Certified, which no other car seat on the market is.

You can also get more info from Orbit and check out Joseph Hei's video response to the Consumer Reports testing.

Dear Orbit Baby parent,
Thank you for being a loyal owner of Orbit Baby products. I wanted to send you this email to address a recent piece of news about Orbit Baby car seats.

We were very surprised to recently learn that when Consumer Reports tested the Orbit Baby Infant Car Seat, two out of six units failed their safety test. Our extensive and regular car seat safety compliance testing program completely contradicts this. Our tests are conducted in the exact same lab that Consumer Reports and NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) uses. In all of our compliance tests, we have never seen the failures that Consumer Reports has reported.

Since safety is of top priority to us, we immediately ran more tests as soon as we learned about Consumer Reports’ results. We ran multiple tests in the same laboratory that Consumer Reports used, with various testing criteria, including the exact criteria Consumer Reports used. All of these tests passed. We also receive reports of real-life accidents from Orbit Baby parents, and we have never had a report of a separation or injury with an Orbit Baby car seat. Because we make products for children, we understand how important safety is. I have two daughters, and they use our car seats and our strollers. For me and for Orbit Baby, absolutely nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of children.

We are concerned Consumer Reports did not follow multiple aspects of our product instructions when they ran their tests. Safety regulations for car seats make clear that all testing should be conducted according to the product’s instructions. Consumer Reports’ tests are therefore not an accurate reflection of the safety of our Infant Car Seat.

Not following a car seat’s instructions can result in unpredictable test conditions, and we believe this is reflected in Consumer Report’s inconsistent results. Our greatest concerns are that they used a harness position that was too high for the size of the dummy, and that they did not turn the Base’s knob to engage the StrongArm™ self-tightening mechanism. In addition, we are alarmed that Consumer Reports showed an incorrect installation of the Infant Car Seat without the Base in the press video that they released to the public; they have acknowledged their mistake and have since edited the video. This further suggests they had not been properly following our Infant Car Seat instructions.

As many parents understand, a tight and properly fitted safety harness for their child is critical to the safety of a car seat. Consumer Reports themselves recommend that parents diligently follow all product instructions, so we are very concerned that they did not follow their own advice. We want to take this opportunity to emphasize again to parents how important it is to follow all product instructions in the real world. Please do revisit the product manual, and I encourage you to contact us directly if you have any questions.

We have already proactively contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), to inform them of the Consumer Reports test results and to share our own data and investigation. NHTSA is in charge of enforcing car seat safety laws in the US, and we will work cooperatively with NHTSA should they have any further recommendations for us.

Your child’s safety is of top priority to me and the team at Orbit Baby. Please visit this web page to find out more information about Consumer Reports’ testing: Again, please do not hesitate to contact us at 1-877-672-2229 or with any questions or concerns.

We appreciate your continued support for Orbit Baby.

Joseph Hei

CEO and Co-founder of Orbit Baby

Consumer Reports released a follow up to Joseph Hei's statement's on August 27th. As an Orbit owner I find it disturbing that Consumer Reports did not use the patented Strong Arm to tighten the safety belts. Our base station is impossible to even wiggle in the car with the Strong Arm employed, but that is not the case when the Strong Arm isn't used. I find myself agreeing with Orbit that Consumer Reports' testing was flawed, and find it hard to believe that they recommend using the car seat with only the seat belts. It appears there is no safety issue with the design of the seat itself. If you link to this latest release you will find many knowledgeable individuals condemning the CR testing, particularly because they ignored the manufacturer's installation instructions. We will be watching carefully to see what the NHTSA rules and how this issue will be resolved, but in the meantime we will continue to use our Orbit car seat with base station.

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