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FANCY NUMBERS: WWW series expected to generate revenue of RM11.3m for RTD
TO the average Malaysian motorist, a car registration number is nothing more than something that identifies the person's vehicle. To some in the well-to-do category, it can mean more than just that.
After all, someone has just committed to parting with an amount that in itself could get him or her a brand-new top German marque for a vehicle registration number. It's the WWW 1, which has just been sold by the Road Transport Department for a whopping RM520,000.
That the WWW 1 has gone for a record price is not unexpected. Besides being the acronym of something very famous, WWW 1 is the sort of number plate that will always look cute on the car. It is one that will make heads turn. It will be great for the ego trip.
The RTD is certainly not complaining, because it means a lot of money to its coffers. In fact, the entire WWW series is expected to generate a total revenue of RM11.3 million to the department, about 10 times more than the usual collection in the previous series.
Affluent and some status-conscious Malaysians have been known to go for vanity registration number plates for a long time. A while back, MCA 1 was sold for RM300,100, presumably to a leader or frenzied member of the country's biggest Chinese-based political party. Other expensive registration numbers in the past have included TAY 1 which went for RM220,000, TAN 1 which had a price tag of RM200,090 and TAX 1 at RM165,000.
But there are other numbers that people cherish, and it's not all ego. These are cheaper yet meaningful registration numbers, such as those taken from their home address, MyKad numbers or their loved ones' birth dates.
An emerging trend now is for car buyers to go for numbers that remind them of their wedding anniversaries. This has a downside though, because husbands would then have no excuse for forgetting to take their wives for a night out or buy them gifts on the anniversary dates.
It is also common for members of a household to buy number plates that have the same digits. Some companies are also known to do this for their fleet of cars.
If there are easily 50 reasons why Malaysians are willing to spend extra money on their preferred number plates, it is the same in many other countries. If anything, the sums that some of those rich and famous have paid for their favourite numbers abroad would make what that person paid for WWW 1 seem like peanuts in comparison.
In 2008, Saeed Abdul Ghaffer Khouri, a member of a wealthy Abu Dhabi family, bought a number plate bearing the single digit 1 at an auction in his home state. At a staggering STG7 million, it is said to be the world record that still stands today. The year before, another rich Arab by the name of Talal Al Khoury had had set the record when he splashed STG3.5 million for the single digit -- 5.
A more familiar figure to Malaysians, in particular the football fans, would be that Russian billionaire and Chelsea boss, Roman Abramovich, who in 2006 snapped up what must be a most modest of number plates by his standard. He paid STG285,000 for VIP 1 in the United Kingdom. Other expensive number plates registered in the UK have included "S 1" at STG404,063 in 2008 and "M 1" that cost STG330,000 in 2006.
Some of the number plates in the UK were expensive because nice or hilarious words could be read on them. Examples were "K1 NGS" and V14 GRA, which would be perfect for anybody wishing to spell KINGS and VIAGRA, respectively.
In Singapore, there is this Harley Davidson that carries the registration number FA760Y, which would appear like FATBOY from a distance, which is the model name of the bike. Back home, a Proton is fitted with a registration number plate that could even been seen as vulgar -- PEN 15.