Soon, newly purchased cars could drive away from the dealerships not just with conduction stickers, but actual plates already installed.

The news comes to us via a high ranking executive of an automobile dealership after they had a dialogue with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) yesterday. According to our contact, the meeting included various dealerships as well as representatives of the two major auto industry associations: CAMPI and AVID.

Automobiles have traditionally been driven out of the dealers after purchase without plates installed; relying instead on a conduction sticker (CS) for identification. The current process means that after the purchase, the vehicle is then duly registered with the LTO, assigned a plate, and the documents and plates are then sent back to the dealership to be handed to the owner. The new direction from the LTO is to change the entire process.

What the LTO is looking at, is to supply the dealerships with plates beforehand, making them readily available at the point-of-sale. What the LTO wants is for dealerships to submit a forecast of their sales, and the agency will then issue the same number of plates to the dealers. So, for instance, a dealership says they will likely sell 150 cars that month, the LTO will supply 150 sets of plates to them.

When a new car is bought, the dealership assigns the plate to the car, and then submits the registration together with the assigned plate to the LTO. Interestingly, this will do away with the practice of requesting the plate's ending number with the LTO as all requests can be accomplished at the dealer level.

What's also interesting is who gave the order to change the system.

“It's a directive of the president that car dealers issue plates upon release of the unit,” said the dealer executive who requested anonymity. “So they [the LTO] are in the stage of informing the dealers and manufacturers that this would be the LTO's direction.”

Currently there is still a lot of pressure on the Land Transportation Office and the Department of Transportation to provide license plates after the many issues regarding suppliers in the past. For almost two years, plate distribution has been stalled due to legal issues.

“I honestly don't believe they can supply the plates yet nor can they make it happen,” continued our dealer contact. “There could be at least 5 to 6 million plates pending, and they have to provide those first.”

The LTO recently annonuced that they have already contracted a new plate supplier to manufacture license plates for vehicles registered July 1, 2016 onwards. The agency was initially looking at March 2018 as the release target, but Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante told that April would be a more realistic target as they still had to make sure there were no problems in production and distribution.

Given that 404,051 cars were sold in 2016 and a further 473,943 units were sold in 2017, the LTO has a massive backlog to whittle down before trying any new system. Also, motorcycles account for a lot of plates; the motorcycle industry sells 3 to 4 times as much cars a year; perhaps more.