first_years_logo3The folks over at the are reporting that the First Years is exiting the car seat business.

First Years owner Tomy markets car seats under the Lamaze, JJ Cole and Learning Curve brands. Tomy got into the car seat business when they acquired RC2 in 2011. RC2 and its sub-brand Learning Curve itself acquired the booster car seat brand Compass in the mid 2000’s.

First Years/Compass car seats have been suffering from benign neglect for years—the company hasn’t released a new model in years (no, the gimmicky True Fit IAlert doesn’t count). First Years just changed the fabric of the seats from time to time.

While we liked several of the First Years’ seats (the folding booster seat, the TrueFit convertible, for example), you can’t stand still in the car seat market. The lack of innovation or willingness to invest in the car seat has been apparent for a while. That said, it takes millions of dollars to keep up with the big boys at Dorel/Costco, Graco and Britax when it comes to child passenger safety. And if First Years parent Tomy can’t cut it, perhaps it is better they exit now and focus on other baby gear areas.

The CarSeatBlog has a statement from Tomy:

“TOMY has made the difficult decision to exit the car seat business. Despite very positive consumer reviews, based in part on our five star NHSTA ratings, we have determined that the economics of the category will prevent us from reaching the level of success necessary for continued investment. We have stopped production and are currently working with our retail partners to sell remaining inventory. We will continue to market our collection of lightweight strollers sold under the First Years and JJ Cole brands. Our customer service team remains available to you to assist with any questions or concerns you may have through this transition period.”

If you have a First Years car seat, it is perfectly safe to continue using it. However, there will be no source for replacement parts or covers for these seats. Therefore, while you may see a First Years car seat on sale in the coming weeks, we’d say pass.

2014 has been a year of upheaval in the baby gear business: we’ve seen several major brands disappear from the market, including Young America (Stanley), Boori and Creations from nursery furniture and now First Years from car seats seats.