Opinion: How much do car designers think about numberplates?

Volkswagen Touareg

The rear of the new Volkswagen Touareg: note the big, flat area the numberplate is attached to

Every road car needs numberplates – but not every vehicle seems to have been designed for them

Let’s discuss a feature on cars that isn’t talked about all that much – despite them appearing on every car on the road and having a major visual impact on both front and rear design.

Yes, let’s talk numberplates. Or, specifically, where numberplates get stuck on cars.

After all, every country demands that cars are fitted with numberplates and, even if the sizes, shapes and colours vary dramatically, the rules generally require them to be stuck in the same area on the front and rear of cars.

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Now, numberplates obviously aren’t a new invention. And yet there are plenty of new cars that suggest the designers didn’t consider they’d have to slap a numberplate on the front and back when they sculpted the exterior. It often seems as though there aren’t any spare plates lying around design studios to stick on early mock-ups.

That’s why I was surprised when I asked Frank Kruse, exterior designer of the new Volkswagen Touareg, about which bits of the SUV he was particularly proud of. He cited the rear numberplate mount.

“Normally, designers work on the rear and make it beautiful, then late on go: ‘I forgot the plate,’” said Kruse. “Then they have to flatten a panel for the numberplate to be fixed on and it doesn’t look right. We decided to work on an elegant solution.”

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That elegant solution was disarmingly simple: a large, flat panel just under the rear window. Kruse added: “Numberplate mountings have a fixed radius and size, and the angle of the plate [to avoid reflection] and distance from the lights [that illuminate the plates] is fixed.

“For us, having a flat surface was the best solution to keep it clean – and it can cope with any type and size of numberplate.”

Design, of course, is an individual and subjective thing, so you can form your own opinion on the Touareg’s rear-end design. But, in my entirely non-design-trained view, the numberplate, at worst, doesn’t detract from the sculpting that Kruse’s team has done around the rear.

Of course, there are other solutions; just think of the ‘controversy’ created by the Land Rover Discovery’s retro-inspired offset plate. Or the love-it-or-hate-it plate on the front of the Alfa Romeo Giulia, shoved to one side of the bumper to create room for that low, bold grille.

In both cases, the numberplate placement has become as much a talking point as the rest of the car’s design. So what do you reckon is the best solution: create a flat space for the plates or embrace their inevitable visual impact and make them bold design statements?

And here’s another question: which car designs do you think have been most impacted – positively or negatively – by numberplates?

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Source:: Autocar