Consumer Reports Loses Some Independence Following Flawed Car-Seat Tests

Consumer Reports will consult with outside experts when developing product testing protocols, rendering the staunchly independent organization slightly less so.

The policy change comes after Consumer Reports (CR) was forced to withdraw an article saying a bunch of car seats failed “disastrously.”

It turned out CR’s lab tested the side-impact crash test at 70 mph instead of the government standard 38 mph. The error was the lab thought the struck car had to be moving at 38 mph after the impact, which would only be possible if it was hit at 70 mph. Oops.

Consumer Reports: Expert. Independent. Non-profit. Hey, two out of three ain’t bad. — BEN POPKEN

Consumer Reports to take more input on tests after car-seat error [AP] (Thanks to Molly!)

Consumer Reports President Apologizes For Infant Car Seat Test Mistakes
Consumer Reports: Um, About Those Car Seats…
Most Car Seats Fail “Disastrously” In Crash Tests


Edit Your Comment

  1. FLConsumer says:

    I want Consumer Reports to go back to the old method — if the car seat can pass at 70mph, I’m sold.

  2. vdestro says:

    The 70MPH test is closer to reality, anyway, because really, who drives 38 MPH or less? Drop it to 50 or 55 MPH for a more fair test and the results are the results. The government is looking out more for the interests of big business, so who cares what they have to say with their 38 miles per hour.

  3. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Hm. Highway speed limit’s 70 in Michigan — guess I shouldn’t have a kid.

  4. Chese says:

    You would think it would cross their minds that a 70 mph side impact wouldnt be highly unlikely. Its akin to sitting sideways on the interstate getting hit on the side.

  5. FLConsumer says:

    @Chese: Yeah, and none of us have ever seen a car involved in an interstate accident which had any damage to its sides. Suuure.

  6. LuckySoldier says:

    Everybody makes mistakes. Kudos to CR for choosing a tougher standard over a looser one (rare today), even if that meant they had to fail every car seat they tested. Some people would like their safety devices to take contingencies into account, not just Pollyanna-ish “meet minimum standards.” What if they applied the same logic to the academic community?

    “Mr. Student, I’m afraid you’ve failed this semester due to your low algebra scores.”
    “But I’ll likely never use algebra! That shouldn’t count!”
    “Hmm. Good point. Okay, you pass.”

  7. NeoteriX says:

    I still love Consumer Reports.

  8. drkkgt says:

    Heck, I have a new kid due next week (there-abouts) and I went out and bought one of the ones who passed. Since it passed.

  9. LuvJones says:

    Wow! so if I’m on the highway with my rugrats(which is very likely) their seats might fail….and why is consumer reports using an outside testing source now? This IS vital information. The carseat companies should be SCRAMBLING to fix this problem instead of crying and moaning about the speed at which the test was conducted…the seats failed at a speed that many parents travel EVERYDAY….wow!

  10. FLConsumer says:

    If CR feels a need to change their tests, I’d encourage them to do their tests at the government standards, then keep repeating them until EVERY single seat has failed and report the SPEED at which it fails. To me, that’s more important than knowing pass/fail.

  11. kmanfactor says:

    Here, Here!

    I agree, people normally drive at high speeds. I’ve seen drivers with kids in their cars going well over the 38mph the government and manufacturers want the seats tested at. Real life situations demand real life testing.

  12. Athenor says:


    Wouldn’t this chew through a lot of cars and car seats? I mean, that’s part of why the government standards are there, to keep from wasti— er… using more cars than are really available.

    I would love to see more true high impact crash tests, but the car companies just don’t provide those, and the insurance companies would panic at seeing just how “safe” these cars really are.

  13. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I’m not sure any of this matters. Most people buy the cheapest car seat they can find, and then buy the largest SUV they can afford. Sad, but true.

  14. FLConsumer says:

    @Athenor: Many, if not all, of the Consumer Reports tests are redundant and have been performed elsewhere at some point. In this day and age, every manufacturer knows exactly where their product compares to the competition and probably has done such testing themselves, either in-house or by a private contractor. Of course, they don’t publish this information, but it does happen.

    Similarly, the Insurance Institute of America crashes cars all year long. The manufacturers and government already do this, but these guys feel the need to do it themselves. Forget how expensive it’d be to crash-test multiple car seats, try crash-testing entire cars you just bought from a dealer’s lot the same day, like IIoA does.

  15. HotTubber says:

    I’ve subscribed to Consumer Reports since the early 80’s and it’s the first reference I check when evaluating major purchases. They are excellent at letting the consumer know the necessary details on what to look for.

    Testing at 70 mph may not be the government’s standard but these days maybe it ought to be!

  16. NoThru22 says:

    I’ve scratched my head over many Consumer Reports reviews to the point that I think they must have gone past opinion and into far darker realms. I was an avid reader for years, memorizing repair rates when I worked in retail, but sometimes the fish they were selling was extra stinky. That’s all I will say about that.

  17. thrillhouse says:

    They’ve made 2 mistakes in about 70 years. I’ll take that record any day.

  18. LintMan says:

    No side crash testing is done at 70 mph but the speeds they do the testing at ARE realistic. Normal accidents involve people braking before they strike something, not sailing into it at full speed. Particularliy since we’re taking about a *side* crash!

    CR’s intention wasn’t to make a super-hard 70mph crash test, but a 38mph one. It was a miscommunication that resulted in a 70mph test which CR then claimed the results of as a 38mph test.

    I’m a longtime CR reader and still love them, but I think sometimes their testing is not as knowledgeable/authoritative as you’d like. (ie: their tests sometimes overlook a certain criteria key to some users of the product). I think maintaining their independent judgement while learning and evaluating standard industry test practices is very feasible, and it would help produce better tests overall.

  19. Terminixsux says:

    CR is OK if your buying a toaster, but their claim to be unbaised is a load of BS. They want to sell magazines, so they stretch the rules to make headlines. They did it with the Suzuki Samarai,the Montero and with other cars, and now with child safety seats. They test products to make them fail, and then publish only the results that are sure to get attention. Their surveys are hopelessly biased. The only folks responding are self-selected subscribers, and the most likely people to respond are those with an ax to grind against some product. I think they’re a good place to look for information, but like any other source, it must be considered with a grain, or maybe a ton, of salt.