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Motor trade agrees end to August rush

The August rush for new car number plates looks to be over, and ministers have agreed with the motor industry that the costs of selling 25 per cent of all vehicles in one month are excessive.

The Government is to move to a system under which the letter of the alphabet that indicates the year of registration will be changed every six months. Once those letters are exhausted, the administration plans to introduce a new system - also based on a six-monthly change.

The changes will take effect from next September, contingent on approval from the motor industry. The new registration plates would be the biggest change in the system since the present regime came into effect in 1963.

The industry has long complained that the once-a-year switch is a commercial nightmare, creating a patchy cash flow and large storage costs by compressing a quarter of all sales into a four-week period.

The present series of letters is due to end in 2004, if not sooner. Alternatives include systems based on geographical areas, and a combination of age and area identifiers, or, registration numbers which would remain with the owner rather than with the vehicle.