Dealership Plates

Like anyone who’s lived in LA for a while, I’ve sat through some serious traffic. Living and working in this city doesn’t necessarily mean you go through traffic hell every day, but it does mean that you lower your expectations a lot, at least if you’re concerned with your blood pressure and overall health. So you hopefully buy a car with a comfy interior, figure out a way to create an ideal music/talk radio/podcast/audiobook setup, maybe work out a great bluetooth situation so that you can make calls during your commute, and just sit back, at least somewhat content in the realization that if you’re going to be crawling along for 45 minutes (to go six miles!), at least the sky is a clear blue and the sunlight’s streaming in.

But at some point, you also realize that it can be quite boring, so if you’re like me, you start cataloging the minutiae of your particular commute: obsessing over how the gardener on that corner lot always misses the same section of lawn, counting down the days till that terrible-looking blockbuster comes out and they finally change out all its equally terrible billboards, and — my favorite — taking note of every single other car around me. I try not to stare, because we’re all pretending to be in our own worlds, but c’mon, if you’re a beat-up purple (old) VW bug with a Colorado plate and a large number of bumper stickers advertising various peace-related causes, I’m going to be making up a story about what your life is.

One weird phenomenon that I noted in my hours on the road is, to my knowledge, a predominantly LA thing: the dealership plate. By my count, every tenth car in LA is driving around with no real license plate (not even a temporary one in the rear window!), but instead sporting an advertisement for where they bought the car. I gave myself a few days to see if I could capture this, and I was able to take the below pics with close to no effort:

I guess it’s possible that each of these cars was fresh from the dealer, or even out on a test drive, but… probably not. And given the sheer number of these driving around, I’m pretty sure people just leave them on their cars for months and months, or basically as long as they can get away with it. Frankly, why not? Without identification, you’re essentially not accountable for any damage or reckless driving that you do, and I have never ever seen a car with one of these plates be pulled over — I’d imagine if one was, you’d be in trouble for not having a real plate? I mean, technically, you could be going around committing all manner of crime, because how are they going to identify you? “It was a dark blue Durango… from Keyes in Woodland Hills?” Real helpful.

So now that I’ve come face-to-face with how incredibly prevalent this is, I’m baffled at how it’s anywhere close to legal. I only vaguely recall the details of my last car purchase, but don’t you have to have a temporary plate showing before you get your real ones in the mail? Is there some special exception here for which literally one in every tenth Angeleno qualifies? Does this happen in other cities, or is it a total LA thing? And how did I manage to get four pictures and not one is of the biggest offender, which I’d see MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY on my commute: the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Beverly Hills?

All good questions. Someone help me out here?