Car Seat History: Britax Star Riser Seat 1982 - 1993 [PIC HEAVY]

AustinMusic

New member
Hi All,

Inspired by Judi’s “Name that car seat!” thread, I thought I would post the second instalment of my “Car Seat Histories” project; a project to which I have not paid enough attention over the last six months!

Although this article is unfinished (I am still talking to Britax about sales data and permission to post the old adverts and press releases on the forum) I hope some people find the following interesting. I am working on similar histories for all the other car seats and booster seats sold in the UK from 1963 to 1990. Hopefully I will be able to post more on these soon.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas/winter break!:)

Car Seat History: The Britax Star Riser

Overview

The Britax Star Riser was the first backless booster seat ever produced by Britax. It was officially released in the UK in the first week of May 1982.[1] Although not the first ‘booster cushion’ to go on sale in the UK[2], it was one of the first to be widely available through well-known national retail chains.[3]

Figure 1:



The 1982 Britax Star Riser Booster Seat.

Design

The designs of many ‘backless’ or ‘low-backed’ booster seats on sale today, very much echo the original Star Riser; testament to it’s simple and visionary design. Designed for children over 40lbs or ages 4 upwards, the seat enabled “children aged four to twelve or even fourteen to safely wear adult belts in the front or rear of cars.”[4]

The seat was constructed using blow-moulded polyethylene resulting in a very strong yet lightweight seat. The Star Riser was both longer and wider than other backless boosters from the period with the underside of the seat measuring 37.8 by 36.8 cm (14.8 by 14.5 inches). In the event of accident, the increased size aided anti-submarining by distributing downward pressure over a larger area of the vehicle seat. This made it less likely to ‘sink’ into the vehicle seat and consequently the position of the child relative to the seat belt was better maintained throughout an impact.[5]

Figure 2:



The underside/base of the seat.

Figure 3:



Rear left corner showing logo and polyethylene construction material.

The Star Riser featured other unique design elements, most notably the ‘horns’ at the rear of the seat. The purpose of these moulded sections was twofold; first to achieve correct positioning of the lap portion of the vehicle belt and second, to negate the need for the small metal retaining arms which were employed by most other backless boosters of the time used to correctly locate the lap belt.[6] Nearly all low-back booster seats currently on sale employ a version of this feature in some form.

The simple single-piece moulded design had, to most, a far more refined and orderly appearance. The journalists at Motor Magazine called the seat “attractive” and declared the design made the Star Riser “particularly suitable for use in the front seat of cars whether the receiving buckle for the belt is mounted directly on the car’s floor or on a stalk.” Critically, this made the Star Riser useable in nearly all cars.[7]

Figure 4:



The somewhat thin cushion covering of the first generation Star Riser.

Another original design feature was the shoulder belt positioning clip which helped to achieve a proper fit of the shoulder portion of the vehicle seat belt. The clip could be adjusted to suit any shoulder height and was held to the seat via a length of strong webbing. This webbing was centrally anchored to the underside of the seat allowing use in both nearside and offside vehicle seats without readjustment. The robust design of the clip eliminated the “likelihood of it rubbing against the neck or face.”[8]

Figure 5:



Detail of the unique shoulder belt positioning clip.

Figure 6:



Overall view of Star Riser showing shoulder belt as it would be used in a vehicle.

Surprisingly (and perhaps arguably) these innovative features were not the primary asset of the Star Riser. Any child restraint can only prove effective if used correctly and the frequency of correct usage is wholly more probable if convenience and ease of use are attributes of the product in question. The Star Riser is just such an example. The lightweight design enabled it to be “easily and quickly stored in the boot for future use, for it is not bolted in place.”[9] Furthermore the absence of metal arms or hooks to position the vehicle belt meant using and transferring the seat far less problematic in comparison to other backless boosters offered by competitors. The portability and usability of the seat were central to its appeal for parents.

Safety Rating & Testing

The Star Riser had been tested and approved to both British Standard BS AU185[10] and European Standard E.C.E. R44[11] at the time it was launched. It was not retested to any further standards at anytime.

History & Evolution

Although sales data has proved thus far elusive, the history of the Star Riser demonstrates it was a popular model. In 1987 after remaining virtually unchanged for five years, the seat underwent a small redesign. Foremost the physical shape of the seat changed, most notably the ‘horns’. These were altered to face more forward than up and became wider; most likely this was to improve the retention of the lap belt position.

Figure 7 & 8:





The second generation Britax Star Riser.

The back-to-front incline of the seat became slightly more pronounced presumably to enhance anti-submarining (however there is no evidence to confirm this). Other changes included the printing of the directions for use on the underside of the seat and a new range of covers. A choice of different colour schemes was introduced with the new covers incorporating a more padded cushion.

Figure 9:



Underside of second generation Star Riser showing printed instructions for use.

Figure 10:



The updated shape of the 'horns'.

Figure 11:



Detail of new covering showing the increased padding/cushioning.

Figure 12:



The red shoulder belt clip fitted from 1987 onwards. Whether the colour was changed from black to red for the purposes of asthetics or visibility is unknown.

Production of the second generation Star Riser continued until 1993 at which time the name began to migrate in various guises for use with more modern products as well as non-European models. Production of the Star Riser most likely ceased circa September 1993[12] for after this date the seat becomes conspicuously absent from popular retail catalogues.[13] The name was used both for USA models until November of 2005[14] and possibly longer by Britax-Rӧmer in mainland Europe.

Figure 13:



The right side of the seat showing the relocated logo now of the more familiar
design.

Pricing & Market Position

The seat had an initial recommended retail price of £17.99 (approx. $31.40) although it was widely available for about £15 (approx. $26.20).[15][16] The first generation Star Riser was cheapest in 1986, when it could be purchased for £12.95 (approx. $18.99).[17] This was “well below the price [currently] being charged for most other booster cushions available on the British market.”[18]

Pricing remained relatively stable with the launch of the second generation model in 1987. In spite of the recommended retail price rising to £19.78 (approx. $32.30) one year later, the Star Riser could be purchased for £13.45 (approx. $22.00). Recommended retail prices for the Star Riser following 1988 are currently unavailable. Although other backless boosters went on sale during the 1980s, the Star Riser remained an affordable seat.

Figure 14:



Graph showing Star Riser pricing history. The green dotted line indicates the introduction of the second generation model.

Conclusion

Even in the absence of sales data, there is little doubt that for Britax, the Star Riser was a huge success. Many backless boosters currently manufactured employ some design elements of the Star Riser and various examples of the seat still make semi-regular appearances on eBay and local advertising websites in the UK.

Arguably however the real success of the Star Riser lies elsewhere. The simple yet effective design made the seat safe, portable and fundamentally easy to use. In combination these attributes resulted in the widespread use of the seat. In an era when awareness and knowledge of the benefits of child vehicle safety products was largely embryonic, the Star Riser made a significant contribution in establishing the use of vehicle child restraints as a normality rather than a novelty.

- - - - -

References:

1. [Unknown Author], ‘Child safety boost from Britax’, Motor, 8 May 1982, p.5
2. [Unknown Author], ‘Child care by Volvo’, Motor, 27 January 1979, p.3
3. The seat was advertised by Argos, Halfords and Mothercare. Before the arrival of Babies R Us, these stores were the biggest retail stores in the UK for browsing and purchasing child seats.
4. [Unknown Author], ‘Child safety boost from Britax’, Motor, 8 May 1982, p.5
5. [Unknown Author], ‘What’s On The Market?’, Autocar, 11 September 1982, p.32
6. Backless booster seats sold by manufacturers such as Securon, Vanguard and Volvo all employed metal hooks or loops to locate the lap portion of the vehicle seatbelt correctly.
7. [Unknown Author], ‘Top Accessory Award Winner: Safe Seat for Older Children’, Motor, 16 October 1982, p.51
8. [Unknown Author], ‘Child safety boost from Britax’, Motor, 8 May 1982, p.5
9. [Unknown Author], ‘Top Accessory Award Winner: Safe Seat for Older Children’, Motor, 16 October 1982, p.51
10. The BS AU185 Standard was a booster-seat specific standard launched 31 January 1983 and withdrawn on 1 November 2002. It was directly superceded by UN/E.C.E. R44
11. [Unknown Author], ‘Star Riser’, Britax: For All that’s Best in Child Car Safety, 1982
12. [Unknown Author], ‘Veilige kinderzitjes’, De Kampioen, September 1993, p.33
13. No exact production end date is known however by 1993, the Star Riser was not advertised for sale in any major catalogues.
14. [Unknown Author], ‘Retired Car Seats’, [Last Update Unknown] <http://www.britaxusa.com/car-seats/retired-car-seats>, [Accessed: 17 November 2012]
15. [Unknown Author], ‘Child safety boost from Britax’, Motor, 8 May 1982, p.5
16. Currency conversion is relative to the dates mentioned. A table detailing historic exchange rates was used for the calculations. This table is online and can be found at this link.
17. Argos Shopping Catalogue, No. 26: 1986, p. 190
18. [Unknown Author], ‘Child safety boost from Britax’, Motor, 8 May 1982, p.5
 
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