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Personalized plates make their debut

UPDATED: After years of debate and objections over what some call “vanity plates,” Norwegians can finally start ordering personalized license plates for the cars. Applications began being accepted on Thursday, and car owners face a hefty fee, but demand was described as “enormous.”

Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen of the Progress Party was more than happy to pose with two examples of Norway’s new personalized license plates. The one on top means “freedom” and the lower one “for individuals.” PHOTO: Samferdselsdepartementet/Frøydis Tornøe

State highway officials administrating the new program received more than 5,500 applications for plates just in the first four hours. “We’ve had enormous demand, much more than double the demand we expected,” a spokesman for the highway agency (Statens vegvesen) told website Nettavisen.

Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen had already claimed that car enthusiasts, such as himself, “have been asking for this for a long time, and I’m glad that it will now be possible to apply to be issued personal plates (called kjennemerker in Norwegian) in  Norway.”

They arrived in places like California nearly 50 years ago, with a USD 25 fee at the time that went into a highway beautification fund. The new personalized plates to be offered in Norway will carry a fee as well, of NOK 9,000 (USD 1,071 at current exchange rates).

The money, according to Heidi Øwre of the state highway directorate (Veikirektoratet), will be charged to cover costs of the offer. Øwre told news bureau NTB, however, that it will generate a surplus that will be earmarked for projects aimed at traffic safety. There were no immediate details of the projects involved.

Applications were being accepted on a first-come, first-served basis from 11am on Thursday (June 15) via the state highway department’s website

“The government wants to make life simpler for most folks, and remove unnecessary prohibitions and regulations,” claimed Solvik-Olsen, of the conservative Progress Party. “The ban against personal license plates was unnecessary, and it’s nice that we can now offer this for car enthusiasts.”

Car owners can apply for plates with a combination of letters and numbers, and receive in return the right to use the plate for 10 years at a time. Some of the applications coming in were for plates that would read BERGEN, NORGE (Norway), KONGEN (The King) and BOND007. Cars issued personal plates will also still be registered with an “ordinary” plate registration that in Norway consists of two letters (signifying the region where the car was bought and registered) and five numbers. That’s still the license plate registration that will be used by state authorities regarding customs and other fees and use of the car abroad.

Some restrictions will be placed on what car owners can choose, to avoid offending others or misusing the name of registered companies. Since the personalized plates may be difficult for machines to read, for example those used to assess road tolls, all cars with personalized plates must have a subscription gadget known as a bombrikke mounted on their windshields. Berglund



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