Red seatbelt buttons—you see them in every car, including iced-out swankmobiles like Mercedes S-Classes and Bentley Continentals. That’s because they’re required by safety regulations. But Tesla has black, white and tan ones. Here’s why they can do it.
Red seat belt buttons look a bit out of place in luxury cars. Take this Mercedes S-Class interior, for example. It’s filled with wood, metal, leather, plastic pretending to look like leather, and glass.
But then there are those bright red seat belt buckle release buttons that look very much like they could have come from the Fisher-Price catalogue.
Red seatbelt buckles are a requirement, but not in America. European seatbelt regulation, in particular ECE R16, states: “The buckle release area shall be coloured red. No other part of the buckle shall be of this colour.”
The corresponding U.S. regulation, FMVSS 209, does not specify a required buckle button color, hence why Tesla is able to use interior color-matched buttons, but only on U.S. spec models.
Why don’t you see other cars with the elegant black plastic buttons instead of the chintzy red ones? That likely has to do with cost savings, as manufacturers try to commonize restraints across all markets. Not to mention, even if it’s not required in the U.S., many automakers probably see it as a common-sense safety item.
So there you have it: Tesla’s uses black and white seat belt buckles in the U.S. because, well, they can.