Shame on Audi for not having LATCH points

Anyone who's dealt much with infant seats and child car seats knows of the various ways to attach the seat to the car. The best way is via LATCH anchor points (LATCH is the contrived acronym for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren”), which became mandatory on all new cars sold in the US since Sep 2002, although most new cars had them years before that.

In other parts of the world, these anchor points are called ISOFIX, and they've been around for quite some time. For example, an article at Audi Japan from 1999 states that the ISOFIX anchor points are standard across their entire line of cars.

Thus, it was to my great surprise that we test drove two different 2006 Audis today and found that not only did neither have the anchor points, but the sales guy had no idea what I was talking about.

Fumie is going to get her Japanese driver's license, so we're thinking of a second car -- something a bit more mature than the soccer-mom Toyota Sienta we've had for the last two years (which, by the way, has the LATCH anchors). Today we checked out the Audi A3 Sportback and the Audi A4 Avant (wagon). They weren't bad, but were surprisingly unthrilling.

My biggest disappointment was that cruise control is not even available on the A3. It's available on the A4 as part of a Bose stereo upgrade (which seems strange).

But the oddest thing was the lack of LATCH / ISOFIX anchor points. Not only that, but the A3's rear three-point belts weren't even the locking type. Normally, if you pull a belt slowly it gives. This allows you to adjust it. If you pull it quickly (as if in an accident), it locks. This keeps you safe. This is all fine for people, but the “it gives” bit is not appropriate for anchoring a car seat. So, modern (in the last 15-20 years?) seat belts have a feature whereby if you pull it all the way out, it gets into a locked mode whereby it can tighten but can not loosen until it's unbuckled. This allows you to securely anchor a car seat, and until LATCH came along was the best way.

Anyway, back to today, the A3's rear belts didn't have that “tighten only” feature. These antiquated belts are the worst type for a car seat, and can't even be used by some car seats. Luckily, our seat (Britax Marathon) has a special feature such that it can be sued with these lame belts.

But shame on you Audi. Just shame on you.


All 10 comments so far, oldest first...

Is it common for women to not have their license here? Or is Fumi your daughter, just coming of age?

— comment by Claytonain on January 15th, 2006 at 1:37am JST (11 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Fumie is my wife. She had her license in America, but hasn’t yet bothered converting it to a Japanese one (I haven’t yet, for that matter, but I can still drive on an international licence; hers has expired). In response to your question about women, she says…

In Japan, not everyone has the driver’s license like in America, especially women. One of the reasons is that unless you live in the countryside, you don’t really need a car for daily living. In the cities, things are close enough so that you can use a bicycle, bus, trains, etc.. Another reason is that in Japan to get the driver’s license you need more technique and knowledge than in American, so one must generally go to a driving school, which costs 2,500 dollars and more, depending on your skill. So, if you live in a city and don’t have the desire to drive for pleasure, it’s often not worth it. Yet, men tend to have desire to drive for pleasure. Lately, more women want to drive because it is convent to have a car when raising kids.

— comment by Jeffrey Friedl on January 15th, 2006 at 1:59pm JST (11 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

I am really surprised about this issue.
A few years ago, when Carina was born, I was also searching for a more safe and reliable way to fasten my kids in the car. At this time I got to know about ISOFIX, a new invention by VW / AUDI group.
Well, here in Germany those cars are pretty expensive. Thus it took a long time to consider to buy a more expensive car with more safety for the kids or to buy a less expensive car and to spent for money for a safe children seat.
Finally I bought a VW with ISOFIX.
Unfortunately at this time there have been only 1 manufacturer with only one model with ISOFIX. This seat has not been on sale … :-((
Anyway, nowadays I am pretty satisfied with this seats (more than with the car itself) and my 2 girls are safe and compfortable on the road.

— comment by Thomas on January 27th, 2006 at 9:59pm JST (11 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Well, I did not come to the point at my previous post …
I am surprised that Audi does not have this ISOFIX (LATCH).
The VW / AUDI group introduces this feature first in Germany.
Why it is not available in Japan?
Maybe because there is no Autobahn … :-))

— comment by Thomas on January 27th, 2006 at 10:01pm JST (11 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

That sounds strange about the Audi. My 2002 A4 has the LATCH system and it’s in the manual. Maybe the sales guy is just clueless?

— comment by Jean on June 30th, 2006 at 6:29am JST (11 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

I am also bemused at this, i have just purchased a 2003 A4 TDi version & realized that there is no ISOFIX anchorage points. I have called back up & they said “they were just an option & not fitted on all A4’s” I already have an ISOFIX chicls seat + the holding frame which were pretty costly. I asked Audi for a quote to fit the ISOFIX anchorage hook/small metal loops (they bolt into the frame) & he quoted £75 ($110) just for the parts!. I used to work for an automotive seating supplier & the brackets are aprox 70p ($1) each.

— comment by Johny on August 29th, 2006 at 11:07pm JST (11 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Perhaps the only thing more difficult and frustrating than trying to find a car in Japan with ISOFIX anchors, is trying to find a child seat in Japan with ISOFIX anchors. Yeah, I’m serious. ISOFIX seems to be NOT offered on store-bought child seats in Japan.

Here was my experience:

While my wife and I don’t own a car, my parents-in-law do. My wife’s father just bought a new Nissan Teana about a month ago. I had noticed that his new car didn’t have the ISOFIX attachments, but I figured that it was an dealer-installable option (I now believe it’s not, although I haven’t asked the dealer directly yet), and that for the time being, we could install the seat using the seatbelts (which are the locking-type). Thus, it was with some excitement (anxiety?) that we all headed off to Akachan Honpo (near Shijo-Karasuma) to purchase a child seat.

Akachan Honpo has a fairly good selection (although not as thorough as Babies’R’Us at the Kuzuha Mall). They carry brand names such as Combi and Aprica. The first words out of my mouth for the sales person were “We’re looking for a seat with ISOFIX”. To which he answered, “Sorry, but none of the seats we carry have ISOFIX.” At first I thought that I had heard him wrong and mistranslated what he had said, but yeah, it’s true. Here’s the deal (according to the sales person):

In Japan, ISOFIX is not a required standard that all child seats must offer. [aside: this seems possible since child seats themselves only became required in Japan in the year 2000 and a safety standard was created by the government only in 2003]. Since the seats are not required to have ISOFIX, there is little incentive for the auto makers to offer it as standard. Right now (2006), ISOFIX is something of a luxurious amenity, which in true Japanese style, has combined with the relatively new requirement for child seats to create an environment where the only way to buy an ISOFIX-compatible child seat is to purchase it directly from the car maker. Thus, yet again in this country, artificial scarcity creates increased revenue.

Here’s Nissan’s page:
http://www.nissan.co.jp/OPTIONAL-PARTS/CHILD/ISOFIX/index.html

The last seat on this page (C-179), the only newborn model, is made by Takata, a well-known seatbelt manufacturer. Also interesting to note is that from the car dealer, this seat costs ¥64,000 (about US$550). If I told anyone back home in the US that I paid $550 for a child seat, they’d think I was insane. Perhaps I am, since the model we bought from Akachan Honpo is the ¥50,000 Takata04-neo (http://www.takata.co.jp/childseat/takata04-neo.html) — identical to the Nissan-offered one except for the fact that it has no ISOFIX. All of the seats we looked at were this price, and none of them had ISOFIX.

The kicker here is that after we had paid for the seat, and had the sales person help us install it in my father-in-law’s car, we ran into two problems. 1) Despite the Takata car-compatibility list, when installed as a rear-facing infant seat, there is not enough clearance to install the seat behind the driver’s seat (the safest location). So we installed the seat behind the passenger seat and ran into problem 2): the rear-left passenger’s seatbelt buckle strap (the short one with the release button, not the shoulder strap) extends too far out of the seat — presumably to make it easier for people to buckle and unbuckle the seatbelt — so the head of the strap collides with the child seat, preventing you from tightening the child seat to the preferred snugness. We’ll have to have the Nissan dealer install a shorter strap.

While the lack of ISOFIX makes installing the child seat a good 5-10-minute operation, I suppose the benefit here is that we CAN still install our child seat in any (nearly) any vehicle in any country. Supposedly a seatbelt-installed seat is just as safe as an ISOFIX-installed one, but with ISOFIX, the user has the advantage of easier installation and a higher chance of correct installation. While I’m quite happy with the seat itself, I’m a little miffed at the fact we we’ve spent so much money, and still couldn’t get one with an international-standard connection, but then again, everyone in Japan has this same disadvantage.

Long story short: Japanese government needs to get off its butt on this issue and pass regulation (unlikely), and the car manufacturers and child seat companies need to stop playing the chicken-and-the-egg problem (also unlikely).

Ah, the joys of being a new parent!

— comment by dan (also in kyoto) on November 10th, 2006 at 2:50am JST (11 years, 1 month ago) comment permalink

Does anyone share this problem with Audi seat belts randomly becoming unbuckled?

I have a 2003 Audi A4, 3.0. My seat belt has started to come unbuckled randomly. At first I thought it was because I did not properly latch it in. Then I noticed that my 4 month year old daughter’s car seat base unbuckled at random. It is not frequent enough to document by video and catch it. It happens in the course of months. I would buckle the child car seat base in. Pull and tug on it with my 170 weight behind it. The car seat base is secure. My wife and I would be driving around without the child in the base and we would hear a click. The seatbelt automatically unbuckled on its own.

We are afraid of it happening if our baby is in the car seat and we are cruising down a freeway.

We are new parents too.

If you’ve shared this experience, or have any thoughts, I’d like to hear from you.

ryanclin@yahoo.com

— comment by Ryan on November 30th, 2006 at 10:24am JST (11 years ago) comment permalink

Reading all the complaints here, I’m sure glad to be in the USA – California to be specific. California always has the strictest safety regulations in the country, but safety restraints fall under federal law. Since 2002 (the model year after my Audi A4), the LATCH (ISOFIX) system has been mandatory in all passenger vehicles here. All infant child seats, from 50 dollar (5,000 yen) models on up, are compatible with it. If you are interested in the safest car seats available in the USA, there is only one brand to consider, and I’ll tell you why.

Testimonial from a bereaved husband and father of my son’s classmate, told to me just today: His wife was driving along with their four-month-old daughter in a car seat in the back seat of the car. She got in an accident (I didn’t inquire whose fault) which caused the car to roll over 17 times, uproot a tree (which slammed into his wife and instantly killed her), and come to a stop upside down in a ditch. His daughter was in a Britax infant car seat that cost him 750 dollars (which is considered an insane amount of money here). She was unscathed. His daughter is now on the California Highway Patrol list of “miracle children” who are alive for no explainable reason – thanks to the Britax car seat. In my opinion, that’s the cheapest car seat one can buy. Any other car seat would have cost him an additional several thousand dollars for an infant coffin to go with it.

Testimonial from a friend and wife of a California Highway Patrol officer: The only car seat brand that the California Highway Patrol recommends is Britax. They pull babies out of cars – alive and dead – every hour of every day. I trust their recommendation.

Most of Britax’s car seats are much less expensive than the infant car seat the bereaved husband bought for his daugher. I’m sure you can get a retailer to ship one to Japan. Please don’t waste a single yen on the overpriced junk available in Japan. The Britax car seats are made in USA too; not China.

— comment by Nekobasu on August 28th, 2008 at 4:15pm JST (9 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

On another note, all Volkswagens and Audis sold in the USA have been required by federal law to have the LATCH (ISOFIX) system in them since 2002. The US federal government doesn’t waive the law for any manufacturer. I agree that it’s a shame that auto manufacturers refuse to make them standard equipment in countries that don’t mandate it, just to save a little money. However, when a car seat is properly installed, a vehicle’s seat belt is rated for higher stresses, and is actually safer. Most LATCH systems in cars aren’t rated for children weighing more than 40 pounds (18 kg). The LATCH (ISOFIX) system is designed as a last resort to save children from people who are too lazy or inept to properly install car seats.

— comment by Nekobasu on August 28th, 2008 at 4:30pm JST (9 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink
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