Among the many myths surrounding the notoriously private life of Steve Jobs was his disdain for license plates. Jobs reportedly drove a Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG without ever affixing a plate, leading many to speculate that Apple's powerful CEO had cut some back room deal with California's DMV, or that he had some high-tech bar code plate on his car, or that he just didn't mind paying whatever citations he received for his different thinking.

Now we have a report that claims to settle the issue once and for all, and explain how you too can drive plate-less in California if you're so inclined.
ITWire is reporting that a former Apple security employee has explained away the mystery by pointing to something of a loophole in California law, one that he says Jobs took advantage of to legally drive without a plate. The New York Times has identified the statute as California Vehicle Code No. 4456, which says that a new vehicle can be driven for up to six months without license plates. (Although the newspaper goes on to explain that the law is changing to shorten that period to three months in July 2012.)

So Jobs' grand act of defiance was made possible by simply leasing a new car every six months.

But before we close the books on the license plate issue, we'd like to perhaps see some more evidence. If Jobs indeed acquired a new car every six months, we'd have to assume that sometime in 2009 he started driving something other than an SL55 AMG. It went out of production in 2008, and was replaced by the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG. Yet we've seen photos of what is said to be Jobs' 2007 SL55, reportedly with over 21,000 miles on the odo in summer 2010.

Perhaps this is just another case of Steve's "reality distortion field," persisting even after his death.


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  • 83 Comments
      reattadudes
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think perhaps the air needs to be cleared here once and for all. I was a dealer in California for ten years, and the implication of the article is that the car was actually unregistered. it wasn't. California does not issue a temporary cardboard license plate like many states do, opting instead to affix a California Report of Sale (known in the business as an "RS") to the lower right portion of the windshield, or the lower right portion of the rear window. it is a fairly long form, but is folded up and inserted in a plastic sleeve that is affixed to the windshield. the Report of Sale is folded in a way so that the owner's name and address are not visible. almost all dealers in California have license plate frames and cardboard inserts that they install in the license plate positions until the license plates arrive at the owner's home. these can be removed by the new owner if they so desire before the license plates arrive. in the case of jobs own car, he chose to remove the insert with the dealer's name on it, but kept the license plate frame from the selling dealer, Smythe European in San Jose. here is where this Jobs story falls totally apart. if he did this so no one could trace the license number, that's ridiculous. that Report of Sale on the windshield has a registration number on it, and if someone had the wherewithall to have access to a Lexis/Nexis computer, they could just as easily be able to trace the owner of the car thru Lexis/Nexis, as this information is immediately entered into the California DMV computer when the car is sold. the only caveat is you would need to get the registration number when the car was parked. what's even more ridiculous is the thought that someone remotely famous would even have the car registered at their home address to begin with. we sold cars to many celebrities over the years, and I never saw a single one that was actually registered to the celebrity. most are registered to their management company. it's totally silly to think that Apple wouldn't allow him a car for a perk, and the car would be registered to Apple Computer at a P.O. box.
      Dmitry Sychev
      • 3 Years Ago
      Actually I just read "California Vehicle Code Section 4456" The code applies to the sale of new and used vehicles. So he could have sold the car back to the dealer and bought it again every six months over the phone.
      ijardine
      • 3 Years Ago
      Maybe he had a deal with a MB Dealership. The dealer buys 2 MB SL55 AMGs with eactly the same specs and color. Every 6 months the dealer swaps out the "old" car for the "new " one. "New" lease each time. There's nothing to stop him taking on such leases of a "used" car and having the dealerrship park the "old" car for 6 months. It's merely a matter of SJ willing to pay the price of the arrangement and compared with his fortune the cost of this was peanuts.
      Derick
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm surprised no one has brought this up. According to his autobiography released a few days ago, he drove without a license plate because he didn't want to be followed home. He said, "Because people follow me sometimes, and if I have a license plate, they can track down where I live. But that's kind of obsolete now with Google Maps." Again, you only pay the ticket if you get caught. I'm sure he could have paid the ticket many times over, just so he didn't have to put on plates.
        Alex Butti
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Derick
        I think your explanation is a bit obsolete. If Steve Jobs was afraid of been followed home (due to his license plate), someone could have just waited outside Infinite Loop on De Anza BLVD, and follow the white Mercedes SL55 AMG regardless.
          Derick
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Alex Butti
          I wasn't trying to explain or make an excuse for why he didn't have license plates on his car. I was merely quoting what Steve Jobs reply was when he was asked in the book why he drives without plates. After reading the book, it sounds like he was a detail oriented guy. I'm sure he would have noticed someone following him home and either called the cops or pulled into a police station if someone was following him. I have a business and constantly check to make sure no one is following me home. Plates make it easier to just look up the address on the internet with a small fee and go to his house at your own convenience. Steve Jobs even said driving without plates was obsolete now with Google Maps as you can look up his house that way with enough investigating on the web.
      MANARC100
      • 3 Years Ago
      If he was buying a car every 6 months why are we talking about the SL 55 AMG. That model is way more than 6 months old.
      IBx27
      • 3 Years Ago
      Probably just sold it to himself every 6 months. I hate how front plates mess up the look of a car, but there's a spot on the back of every car specifically for a plate, so putting a back plate on doesn't bother me as much.
      ACURA23CL
      • 3 Years Ago
      Haha...Steve Jobs = Larry David. Definitely sounds like something Larry David's "character" would do on "Curb".
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        icon149
        • 3 Years Ago
        I think it was Brook Stevens who developed planned obsolescence, or at least coined the term and made it an industrial practice... he designed the weinermobile... so he is at least somewhat tied to the auto industry, but not really to GM.
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
        LJ
        • 3 Years Ago
        how did apple hold back on technology or abandon its customers u moron? Look at all of apples products now, they're constantly being updated with new tech. Ur stupid to compare windows machines to apples because windows isn't a hardware manufacturer for Pc's they just develop the os. And how does apple abandon its customers? U can find many ppl who have older apple products, such as computers, tht are running perfectly smooth till this day. Try saying that about a pc. U sound like an apple hater who will can't tell the different between fact and opinion.
          Baylok
          • 3 Years Ago
          @LJ
          @ LJ *cough* xserve *cough* need I say more?
        Gcbchef
        • 3 Years Ago
        if you're talking about apples mobile products I can generally agree, although its more of a case of how fast the technology is changing (Android phones become obsolete with old platforms faster than iPhones and iPods do). My old MacBook Pro with the first set of intel processors run Lion really well
      Autoblogist
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's funny as the weeks go by after his death, he seems to be more of a d-bag than anyone ever thought. I think Joe Rogan got if right when he said anybody with that level of success generally has flaws that a regular person wouldn't have.
      LesPaul1
      • 3 Years Ago
      Now I'm certain that you guys frequent Jalopnik. The same exact story is always posted a day later. Can you guys make it more obvious?
      threefortyduster
      • 3 Years Ago
      Come on, can't even post the picture of the spot he liked to frequent....you know them, the ones with the blue lines on the outside and the funny picture in the middle? I have some apple stuff, but sorry, I don't see this guy as the great person everyone wants to claim he is.
      Sterilizer
      • 3 Years Ago
      i hope all of you who run around in an unlicensed vehicle get them totaled, no harm to you, and then explain to the insurance company why your car is not registered, and crap yourself when they don't give you a dime. Your only screwing yourselves!
        bentleypowered
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Sterilizer
        you're pretty misinformed, troll. most people are driving with no license PLATE, not an unregistered vehicle. not having a plate does not equal no registration. also, how do you think the car would even be insured if it wasn't registered? if you stop and think, common sense will get you far, my friend. i'm also using the term my friend in a sarcastic manner in case you didn't catch that either.
        illmatic6688
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Sterilizer
        wtf r u talking about dude?the car is registered. just the actual license plates were not on the car
        Wai
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Sterilizer
        Bet you never bought a new car before.. of course we have registration, we just dont put plates on so the car looks new all the time and cops dont bother for it
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