Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 12:16 UK

France bids adieu to old car IDs

Presentation of new vehicle registration plates in Paris
The distinctively French registration system has been scrapped

For decades French drivers have proudly displayed their regional loyalties, but the old system is now being replaced by a UK-style number plate-for-life.

The new plate will stay with the car, regardless of whether the owner sells it or moves to another region.

The two-digit number of the French department - or region - is reduced to a small strip on the right-hand side.

The French news agency AFP describes it as "adieu to '111 AAA 75' and welcome 'AA - 111 - AA'."

The new system - which will also apply to lorries - is aimed at combating registration fraud and making stolen vehicles easier to trace. Some 130,000 stolen cars were sold in France in 2008, French media report.

A group of French politicians waged a campaign against the change, defending the 59-year-old registration system under the slogan "never without my department".

In a concession to them French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie decided that the departmental number would still appear on the new number plates, though reduced in size, along with a regional emblem.

But now drivers can decide which department they want displayed on the car's plate. So a Corsican living in Paris can for example choose the Corsican number and emblem - which is a black Moorish head sporting a white headband.

But the Europe 1 news website says thousands of residents of Loire-Atlantique department consider themselves part of Brittany. They object to the fact that new Loire-Atlantique registrations will bear the emblem of Pays de la Loire. So there is now a movement to put stickers showing the Breton flag and corresponding number 44 on the new plates.

Under the new system, the dealer will issue the new car registration, instead of the local authority, eliminating the stocks of old blank grey registration cards, which were a security risk.

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