Day three in Vegas dawned and our intrepid media team greeted the dawn with a mighty series of snores. This expo business is amazing but can really wear a girl out!
We started our day at the expo in the line ride for Starbucks, where so many ABC Kids attendees were in need of pastries and coffee that the cold case was nearly empty. Finally, coffee in hand, we were ready to meet another set of manufacturers and see the latest innovations in the car seat world.
Throughout this experience, we’ve been so pleased to meet with technical representatives from so many manufacturers. So many of these professionals are not only in the car seat business, they’re CPSTs as well — child passenger safety is as much a goal for them as it is for us here at CSFTL.
To that end, we’ll lead off with the highlight of our day:
Dorel Juvenile Group
The good folks at Dorel were very excited to meet with us; as we were with them. They’d recently announced a VERY exciting change to their line of low-priced convertibles: a minimum age of two years to forward face in their updated Apt and upcoming Scenera Next.
These seats are expected to hit the market in early 2015. We consider this requirement a giant step forward in child safety — so much so that we were quite free with the high fives for Ryan Hawker from Cosco during our stay in their booth today.
Those high fives will continue as these updated seats start to make their way to stores. The updated Apt will run about $65; the Scenera will be around $45 (with some more plush cover options available for a whopping $3 more, though it looks like Wal-Mart will have these plusher covers at the $45 mark!!!).
Translation: there will be two great low-budget choices for extended rear facing on the market. Both seats will include little grippy round pieces on the bottom that will make a more solid contact with the seat, helping achieve a solid installation.
While there are a lot of solid options for extended rear facing in the middle and higher ends of the market, this lower price point is critical. These options can only help with our goal: promoting best practice. Ryan and his team share this goal and we’re thrilled to see this change coming.
The Apt now features 16″ top shoulder slots — an increase of 3 inches from their current seat. This change makes the seat longer-lasting and turns it into a fantastic, low-priced, lightweight seat for extended rear facing.
The Scenera’s lowest shoulder slots are now even lower, making this a better-fitting option for smaller babies.
While we saw a great many terrific Dorel seats today, the updates to these two seats were by far the stars of the show for us.
Dream Ride SE
The Dream Ride SE car bed is a niche products for transporting the Littlest Littles – it’s used for preemies and babies from 5-20 pounds who need to be flat while transported. It used to feature a very challenging installation but we’re thrilled to share the lower anchor connectors that make those challenges a thing of the past.
Special Needs CSPTs can rejoice at this small but very significant improvement.
We also visited the updates to the Onboard, Onboard Air (which features Air Protect) and Onboard Air Plus (which features G-Cell technology) rear facing only seats.
All of them have the new base with the updated recline foot but have lost the lock off. We’re fans of lock offs since so many of the infant seats we see are installed in the center seating position with the seat belt — the lock off can to achieve a solid installation in that position.
The bases are now interchangeable so caregivers who need a spare can choose a lower priced option or select a base with some additional features to meet their needs. Those bases now feature some additional recline height that can help with installation in cars with deeper seats.
Safety 1st convertibles will see some new fabric choices, which adds some nice options to seats we already like, such as the Advance SE 65 Air. But more importantly, the recline angle for the Safety 1st convertibles will no longer rely on 22 pounds as the threshold for a more upright install. Instead, these seats will be able to be more upright once the child can hold their head up. This upcoming change will give the seats a smaller rear-facing footprint. For the Guide, Advance SE 65 Air and Elite 80 Air + 3-in-1 seats, this is a significant and welcome change.
We heard inklings of a rumor that change is coming to the Alpha Omega Elite. Whatever form that change may take, we most certainly welcome it.
Maxi-Cosi Rear Facing Only Seats
We headed around the corner to the Maxi-Cosi booth, where we saw the updated fabrics on the Mico AP and the Mico Max.
The entry-level Mico AP features some lovely new fabrics and an improved infant insert. The base release handle has moved to be behind the child’s head — this is an improvement. This change means that this incarnation of the seat can’t be installed without a base using the Euro belt routing (this routing is where the shoulder belt is attached behind the behind the seat in addition to the lap belt being threaded through the belt guides on the top of the seat).
The Mico Max is a more featured version of the Mico AP and includes an Anti-Rebound Bar on the base. It also has a bigger sun shade than the Mico AP and comes in some lovely colors!!
Maxi-Cosi Convertible Seats
Maxi-Cosi’s biggest change is called Keep It Clean. It’s new seat pads for the rear facing and convertible seats that can be removed while the car seat is installed in the vehicle. If you’ve ever dealt with any kind of unexpected fluids in your child’s car seat, well, you have some idea of how handy this feature can be.
The Vello 65 will be an exclusive seat to Target and Wal-Mart. It’s a scaled-down version of the Pria 65. We expect this to be a nice option for families looking for a lower price point with the Maxi-Cosi name. The Pria 70 has some delicious new fabrics and colors. We talked at length about the Pria 70 and 85 and learned more about the challenges in importing seats to the U.S. market.
The Pria 85 will be one of the few high weight limit convertibles left on on the market. Weight limits have been dropping to 65 pounds as NHTSA demands that higher weight seats pass crash testing with the 10 year old dummy but Maxi-Cosi was able to meet this requirement.
We learned that the little grey clips on the sides of the seat are harness holders. We’d been wondering about that and playing ‘guess the feature’ based solely on the picture we’d seen so it was great to find out what they were.
We also took a quick tour through the RodiFix and Rodi AP boosters. I hadn’t realized that the Rodi AP converts to a backless booster (the RodiFix does not). These boosters have some great features such as ISOFIX and the low belt path, though they lack the cup holders that my booster rider prefers.
Our time with Dorel was well-spent. We got to see and touch some really exciting innovations to seats and share feedback about a great number of things while we were there.
Our travels across the Expo floor also took us to Nuna, makers of the Pipa. We’ve spent some time with the Pipa and were eager to see how it has changed. Thanks in part to our feedback, they’ve added a robust, adjustable new insert that helps fill some of the space around the child’s hips. We were very impressed with the foam inside the insert and pleased to be part of this improvement.
In the works is an update that will help make the leg installation more stable. The Pipa also has some exciting new colors and fabrics coming out. While those are lovely, we were pretty distracted by the improved fit of the new insert.
Our visit to the Expo floor also took us by Baby Trend, where we got to take a peek at the new fashions for the Hybrid 3-in-1 seat. Their new rear facing only seat is the Easy Flex Loc 32, which has a 32 inch height limit and ranges from 5-32 pounds. The lowest shoulder harness slot is 7.5 inches, (their current seats are 8 inches at the lowest slot, which doesn’t fit some of our smallest passengers as well as we’d like) so we’re pleased about this change.
The Inertia rear facing only seat will be sold under the new MUV line.
Day In Review/Our Readers ROCK!
The most heartening element of our meetings today and with most of the other meetings we’ve had with manufacturers was their willingness to hear what we had to say. More than once during this show, an engineer has shown us something and asked our opinion. Our opinions come from our own experience as technicians and parents but they’re also formed from what our users tell us.
So as much as these manufacturers are listening to us, we’re listening to you. And all this listening is adding up to some large and small changes that are making car seats safer and easier to use. We couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this process.
Check out Day One and Day Two of our ABC Kids Expo 2014 adventure!