Hooniverse Asks: Why don’t car designers account for a front license plate?

The license plate. A seemingly arbitrary sequence of letters and numbers, or a clever personalized message showing off your dazzling personality. It may have even been manufactured using prison labor.  If you have a vehicle, you have a plate. Probably two. Mounting your plate to the back is easy. There is a spot for it, an obvious recession in your intricately crafted bodywork. Affixing your vehicular fingerprint to the car’s front, however, is often not so straightforward. Most often, there simply is no obvious place for it. So what do you do? Do you give your car’s angry face some buck teeth?

General Motors solved this problem with the GMT900 generation of its full-size SUVs – the Tahoe and its cousins from 2007-2013. The truck’s fascia came from the factory with an indent perfectly sized to house a license plate. Inexplicably, GM removed this feature with the 2014 redesign of the Tahoe.

The scope of this problem varies among different vehicles. It is especially glaring on the 2020 Toyota Avalon, whose entire front fascia is the grille, save for the headlights, which of course cannot be obscured. How does one mount a front license plate on that car?

Then there are the hypercars. Of course, if you can afford one, you can probably afford a ticket for no front plate, if you even drive the car enough for that to be a significant risk, which you probably don’t. Nonetheless, take the Bugatti Chiron for instance. A front plate can either be mounted to the grille, which would be absurd, or to the front bumper on one side of the grille, which would ruin the car’s symmetry.

And so, the question remains: why don’t cars come with somewhere to mount a front plate? GM has shown it’s possible. All automakers have accommodated the requirement for a rear-mounted plate. There must be a better solution than drilling holes into the front bumper.

24 Comments

  1. It is an interesting observation, as it really gets worse with more intricate, sometimes busy modern car design. Vehicles seemingly designed by five year olds, like the Montero, a Volvo 940 or even a Beetle, are simple enough to just drill two holes and be done. Doing that to an 80k$ sport-offroad-family-lifestyle-viral-dynamicism takes a bit more attitude.

    But, really, over a virtual beer, this is an endless topic. I still see brand new cars without hooks for straps in their boots, for example.

  2. It’s stupid, really. Thirty-one U.S. states require a front license plate, so accommodations for one should be built into the design.

    As for the 2020 Avalon, most of that ridiculously ugly grille is fake. The slim openings are at the top and bottom, leaving space in the middle for a plate. The front of the car is an absolute train wreck anyway, so the addition of a license plate doesn’t really hurt it.

    https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/49945296046_423cf41be0_c.jpg

    1. I tell you, we need to set up the Hooniverse Replacement Grille company. Just having a body-colored piece of plastic covering that fake grille would probably enhance the look of the car.

  3. It is an interesting observation, as it really gets worse with more intricate, sometimes busy modern car design. Vehicles seemingly designed by five year olds, like the Montero, a Volvo 940 or even a Beetle, are simple enough to just drill two holes and be done. Doing that to an 80k$ sport-offroad-family-lifestyle-viral-dynamicism takes a bit more attitude.

    But, really, over a virtual beer, this is an endless topic. I still see brand new cars without hooks for straps in their boots, for example.

  4. Corvette has often taken the front plate into consideration, particularly C3 through C5 versions. I think they benefitted by assuming the overwhelming majority of their production would remain in North America, where those jurisdictions requiring license plates have standardized on the size and shape.It would complicate things to also have to design around Euro-style number plates.
    https://nicholaspixel.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/img_3910.jpg

      1. Maybe other EU countries are more strict, but in Ireland, you can have a Japanese format plate, which is more similar to US ones in aspect ratio provided you can fit in the EU symbol and the letters are a certain size in a specific font. Not sure it’d be small enough to fit the Corvettes front niche though and you do always get that one inspection staff or Police officer who doesn’t know the rulebook.

    1. I didn’t realize that was how it was done, that is rather nice.

      I bought my E46 last January with no front plate mount. Odd since the car has been in Ohio all its life. Just after I bought it the Ohio legislature surprisingly took up and passed a bill eliminating the front plate. However, it isn’t effective until this July 1st. So I’ve technically been illegal for over a year now and will be for another month, but I wasn’t going to buy and install the bracket knowing that it was going away.

  5. Because a place for a plate without a plate in it is dumb. It’s hard to make a big recessed rectangle look like a styling decision. Don’t screw up all cars with provisions for a front plate when you only need to screw up the looks of cars registered where a front plate is required.

    Full disclosure: The state in which I reside does not require a front plate, and I don’t want your bracket on there.

      1. When I lived in Florida you were only issued a single plate for the rear, no front plates available. It does create a market for aftermarket front vanity plates that mostly fill the same role as bumper stickers, though.

        1. Washington requires front plates but several years ago stopped issuing registration stickers for them, as those are now only required for rear plates. At this point it’s been this way long enough that essentially all front plates are sticker-free, but for the first few years this change in policy meant that most vehicles were displaying expired tags up front; perfectly legal under the revised law but occasionally awkward when driven out of state.

    1. I have a friend who wanted a personalized license plate with several words on it–well in excess of the character limit. She bought a government-issued plate with the first characters of her message, then, using the same colors and font, continued her message by painting on the trunk.

  6. I have owned a Subaru, Ford, GM’s, Chevys, Hondas, Volvo, Pontiac, Nissan, Jeeps and they have all had places to mount the front license plates there’s no reason every vehicle shouldn’t

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