Motoring: No more number plate snobbery

BRITAIN'S MOTORISTS have long enjoyed an irrational love affair with their number plates. Perhaps because for years the Government made it so awkward for anyone to acquire a different number, to retain it, or to transfer it to another car, very few people made the effort. Those that did became members of a small but elite personal number plate club.

But with the introduction of the year identifier number plate system, a new number plate snobbery was introduced. With the identifier changing every August, the neighbours couldn't possibly fail to notice when a new car arrived next door.

In no time at all, the desire to enjoy the maximum one-upmanship value meant increasing numbers of new car buyers insisting on delivery on 1 August.

The motor trade loved every minute of this annual madness, soaking up the benefits of a Christmas that for them came in summertime. Convinced that the year identifier boosted new car sales by encouraging punters to change their cars more often, dealers and manufacturers enthusiastically supported the whole mad ethos.

Until such time that a full 25 per cent of the year's total new car sales were crammed into a single month. The sheer volume of transactions in August - not to mention the fact that trade came to a virtual standstill in June and July - was becoming intolerable.

And so this August's S-plate will be the last annual identifier. From now, registration numbers will change every six months, starting with the T-plate in March 1999 and the V-plate in September 1999. There is no U-plate, nor for that matter, will there be a Z-plate, so this sequence will expire in March 2001 with the Y-plate.

After that, the system will change again. The new plates will start with three randomly selected letters, followed by two identifier numbers and then two further letters which will denote where the car was first registered.

The thinking is that two numbers will be less obvious than the old single letter as a year identifier, and therefore having a certain plate on the front of the car will become less critical for social climbers.

"The six-monthly identifier aims to smooth out the August sales peak following requests from the manufacturers", said Transport Minister Gavin Strang as he announced the changes earlier this year.

It will certainly do that and more. In future, August is going to be one of the quietest months of the year.

According to Glass's Guide, the motor trade "bible" of used vehicle values, the new system will create car sales booms in September, January and March.

Adrian Rushmore, Chief Editor, says: "September will be the best new car sales month and January and March will be evenly matched at first. In time, however, as fleets change over from their traditional August cycles, sales in March are likely to match those of September, creating twin peaks instead of the current one."

He warns, however, that there is a downside to the new system. Values will fall as a direct result and so dealers will be offering less generous trade-in allowances.

And even new car values may fall too, given that a car will only be "new" for six months under the new system, rather than a full year under the old year identifier. Because the market is fundamentally image-driven, this means increased depreciation in the first six months.

None of this is likely to cause the slightest lack of sleep to the Treasury's accountants who worked out some years ago that a new voluntary tax could be introduced by the simple expedient of selling number plates to the highest bidder.

When the S-Plate numbers first went on sale, the DVLA sold pounds 5.5 million worth in a week. "The new format can only fuel demand for these old, more flexible numbers", said Byron Roberts of the DVLA. "Business is booming".

Martin Derrick

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
Sport
Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse come together
football
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The beat is on: Alfred Doda, Gjevat Kelmendi and Orli Shuka in ‘Hyena’
filmReview: Hyena takes corruption and sleaziness to a truly epic level
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

    Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

    £10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

    £17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

    £32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis