Did the 15-reg pass you by as well? Why nobody notices your new number plate any more

Published: 12 March 2015

► Why nobody notices new-reg day
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► Are bi-annual plate changes to blame?

The new 15-reg number plates went on sale last week. Did you notice? I didn't. And not just because I was at the Geneva motor show.

Even now, 12 days later, I haven't actually noticed a single new registration number on Britain's roads.

It's a sad cultural loss. I grew up in the 1980s and the annual new letter day on 1 August was a big event. It was a rite of passage for a young, car-obsessed boy - I'd compete with my slightly less petrol-obsessed sisters and parents to see who'd spot the most A-reg models. 

Why new number plates used to matter in Britain

Having a new letter on your spanking new motor was a badge of honour. A curtain-twitching, subtle brag of oneupmanship along the suburban streetscape of Britain, and newspapers were full of it (and often reported on the poor unfortunates who pranged their new pride and joy as they drove off the forecourt).

No more. Ever since the annual August swapover was ditched for a bi-annual release in 2001*, the event has been diluted to such an extent that I genuinely think nobody notices any more. 

The invisible 15-reg plates

Perhaps tonight I'll see a 15-reg car and rediscover a small glimmer of excitement, note a frisson of pride on the driver's face behind the showroom-fresh steering wheel.

But I somehow doubt I will. New cars have are becoming commoditised and new plate releases in March and September will never replicate the annual summer rush.

A small part of the romance of motoring, for me, has been lost...


* Note for overseas anoraks: the current UK system now uses a geographical identifier (EU above = Essex), an age index (15 = March 2015) and three random letters

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet