Belt up and live a bit
THE humble seatbelt has not changed in an age. Well, my age anyway. It’s still basically black, from the strap to the buckle, with a splash of OHS-style orange to guide you to the correct ‘clickclack’ connection.
A few companies allow you to choose a different colour for the strapping, like the racer-red restraints in some Porsches, but otherwise it’s the same style everywhere as the ’60 originals that transformed road safety.
So, are the car companies missing something? And are we missing out?
If you’re like Ali, who shares my life and cars, they are and we are too. She believes there is a major opportunity for some cabin customisation that has been overlooked by everyone from Hyundai to Rolls-Royce.
You see, when it comes to seatbelts, there is almost nothing between a $14,000 i20 and a $1.25 million Phantom. There are still basic black plastic covers over the mechanical bits, all perched on a basic black steel rod that’s bolted to the floor.
Ali believes upscale buyers should be flattered with something special on the seatbelt front. Perhaps a touch of 24-carat in a Rolls-Royce, something more flamboyantly fun in a Porsche, something more substantially leatherwrapped in a BMW or Benz. And I have to agree. When every carmaker is doing their best to make us feel special, and to make their cars stand out from the pack, why are designers like Jaguar’s star Ian Callum not turning their attention to the seatbelts? And what about Mike Simcoe and Richard Ferlazzo at Holden?
You can argue that safety comes first, which it does, but even airbag covers have come a long way in the past few years. Few people would even know where to find them today because as they are so artfully camouflaged and integrated.
Seatbelts must always be obvious, and strong, but that doesn’t mean they cannot have some art and style.
Why should a Lamborghini belt look and feel the same as one in a Toyota? Surely we should expect more, and different.
A colour choice for the webbing would be an easy start, and a way to put some personality into the cabin. As for the buckles, an Audi should look and feel as different from a BMW or Benz as the rest of the cabin.
Right now I’m reminded of the misquoted words of Henry Ford, who apparently did not say about his landmark TModel “You can have any colour, so long as it’s black”.
But in the case of the seatbelt, he would have been right.