The United States subsidiary of the company that makes Maclaren strollers has filed for bankruptcy, although affiliated companies outside the U.S. are apparently unaffected.
The high-priced strollers have been popular with upscale parents for years despite problems you'd normally expect from lower-priced merchandise: wheels breaking, strollers tipping over and, most notably, not one but two recalls because of fingertip amputations that occurred when infants' fingers became trapped in the hinge mechanism.
In the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, Maclaren USA lists liabilities of $15.9 million against assets of just $45,413. Included among the creditors are at least seven families whose children suffered fingertip amputations and who were awarded damages in court, The New York Times reported.
The rest of Maclaren's global operations are apparently unaffected by the bankruptcy filing and, the Times noted, some of the liabilities listed in the filing are debts to other Maclaren entities.
A black eye
The Maclaren recalls were a black eye for the company. The first recall, in 2009, affected more than one million strollers and was announced after 15 incidents, including 12 fingertip amputations in the U.S.
The recall was repeated in May 2011. By that time, the total number of incidents had grown to 149, including 37 additional injuries, five involving fingertip amputations.
Recalls are sometimes repeated when incidents continue to occur after an initial recall, as was the case with Maclaren. This often happens when consumer products -- particuarly baby gear -- are donated or sold when a family's children outgrow them and the second generation of owners don't hear about the recall.
But in Maclaren's case, even consumers who tried to follow up on the recall were frustrated.
"I tried the link from the ConsumerAffairs website, consumer safety website, and the Maclaren USA website for recall. None of these links worked," Tim of North Hollywood, Calif., said last January. "Maclaren USA should be responsible for providing information about the recall to the public. How am I to get information about the recall and if my stroller is part of the recall if their website and recall tab is not working?"
Evette of North Brunswick, N.J., had a similar experience: "I have been trying to contact Maclaren concerning the hinge recal at there tool free number and their website. I cannot get through on either. How are we supposed to get the kit for the stroller? I cannot use a stroller that I paid almost $200 for."
Maclaren was founded in Britain by Owen Maclaren in the 1960s. The lightweight, collapsible baby buggies quickly became something of a status symbol in New York City and elsewhere despite complaints that they were prone to tip over and that the wheels weren't sturdy enough to stand up to New York's mean streets.
"I have a chocolate/pink Maclaren stroller and I have just about had it with it tipping over backwards with my 2 year-old in it," said Veronica of Chino, Calif. "I am confused and freaked out."
Jo of Brooklyn experienced the flimsy wheels problem fisthand. "Stroller back wheels became like hard flat bricks after one year of regular use toting my son his first year," she said.
Things turned out even worse for Caroline of New York.
"I was walking down the street with my two-year-old in his Quest and wheel snapped off! We fell down. Could not believe it. Nobody badly hurt but shocked. Carried toddler home with shopping -- had to leave stroller on sidewalk!"
The United States subsidiary of the company that makes Maclaren strollers has filed for bankruptcy, although affiliated companies outside the U.S. are appa...