Car Designers Are Still Baffled By How To Deal With Front License Plates

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Photo: Subaru/Jason Torchinsky

While I was doing my quick design breakdown of the new 2022 Subaru BRZ there was a detail that I didn’t pay much attention to, but after looking at the car a bit more and seeing this referenced in the comments, I can’t not see it: that front license plate mounting area. And it’s got me thinking.

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It’s got me thinking because I’m genuinely unsure how to feel about it. On the one hand, there’s something honest and practical about it. Earlier this year, I wrote about how car designers seem to like to pretend that front license plates just don’t exist, and here comes a brand-new car that clearly and unashamedly accepts the reality of front license plates and provides a clear, easy-to-access place to mount one.

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I should be happy, right? I mean, this is exactly what I was bitching about, wasn’t it? So why don’t I feel happy about this?

Easy. Because it kinda sucks.

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Photo: Subaru

I mean, look at it; it’s a half-assed effort at best. The pleasing curve on that front edge is broken up by that little protruding rectangle, and I’m just not sure it had to be that way.

Why couldn’t that mounting point have been relocated down an inch or two into the grille area, like this:

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Photo: Subaru/Jason Torchinsky
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See that little rectangular protrusion with the two screw holes there above the first grille bar? It’s hard to see, right? Well, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? And I think a license plate would look fine there:

Illustration for article titled Car Designers Are Still Baffled By How To Deal With Front License Plates
Photo: Subaru/Jason Torchinsky
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Sure, there’s a little bit of that Miata-style buck-toothed bunny thing happening, but it’s less so on non-white plates, and you’d still have it with the actual mounting setup.

The point is, it wouldn’t have taken all that much to make a better solution. Most states have pretty flexible front license plate mounting height requirements, and I think this would work in any state.

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In 2020, 30 states require a front plate. That’s more than half, if my math serves.

So, while I appreciate that Subaru at least took a bit of effort, I don’t think it’s too much to ask them to consider spending just a little bit more effort here.

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Car designers are clever people. I’m sure they can come up with solutions that work with or without plates, and not resort to slapping a little slab on the face of their cars.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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