Registering an out of state leased vehicle in California when you move here.

September 7, 2013

This is just a quick post to hopefully help others who also find themselves in a similar situation as I did, and have to register a car they leased in another state in CA when they move here.

I very recently moved from Boston, MA to Palo Alto, CA. My family moved with me and we brought our leased car(s) with us.

I knew that I would need to register my car in California, get new license plates and change my license. I spent a lot of time on the phone with the leasing companies, their finance departments, on CA DMV website, and even showed up at the DMV during a CA trip to see if I could get some arty around the process. Unfortunately there is scarily little available online (at least my experience) on how to register a car, that you may have leased in another state and hence are not the owner and title-holder, in CA.

Car lease companies actually gave me some if the most confusing information. They kept telling me to go to the DMV and ask them to contact the car lease company and request a copy of the original title. They told me there is a special firm for this at the Dmv but didn’t know its name/number, and i searched the DMV website but didn’t find any such form. I was told by the lease company that somehow once the DMV gets that information I will need to go back to the DMV and fill out the application forms etc. That process didn’t make enough sense to me – I just didn’t see how I could just show up and say “Hi Mr/Ms DMV: can you please, ummm, call my leasing company on this number and get whatever you need?” I didn’t want to waste a day at the DMV.

Anyways – I asked friends on FB and Twitter if they had any advice, and lo and behold, social media came to the rescue. A friend had gone through this process herself and guided me. It is actually quite simple. And it worked for me today. Here’s how it goes…

1. Have your out of state car registration document with you.
2. Make sure you get a smog check done and have the report with you. Cost me $34.99.
3. Ask your lease company to send a “limited power of attorney for registering car in another state” and a copy of the original title to your home address. Bring those with you.
4. Bring your out of state drivers license (and your passport if you also want your CA drivers license). By the way: you need to do all this within a few weeks of arriving in CA so start the process with your lease company even before you move.
5. Get an appointment in advance with the DMV by going online. It can be a zoo if you don’t have an appointment.

Once you get to the DMV, look for window that says “By Appointment”, and let them know you have arrived. They will give you applications to fill out and make you go outside to bring your car to the appropriate place for “Verification Check”. Basically somebody will walk around your car, peek under the hood, take mileage information etc and give you a filled out verification form.

Fill out the application for registering a car that you will be given (don’t worry about price of car, just guess, and write in “lease” since there is no option for that).

You will be given a ticket number, wait for your turn, go up to the designated window/desk, hand over the documents with the filled-in application form and you will soon have new number plates and registration documents in your hands. Fee is $241 and you can only pay in cash, check or Debit/ATM card. No credit card.

I also filled out my driver’s license application on the spot and paid the $32 fee. They needed to see my passport as a second form of ID. I didn’t have to take a driving test but did take a written exam. I had not prepared but thankfully I only got 3 answers wrong when I was allowed to have 6 wrong answers out of 36. I didn’t know better, but you would be better off grabbing a CA driver’s handbook (copies lying around DMV) and reviewing it for 30 minutes before the test. Smile for your photo as you will be stuck with it for a while.

Good luck!

Prius continues to make advances: Hypermilers get 90mpg but even the US model gets 50mpg

April 5, 2009

There are electric hybrid cars…and then there is Toyota Prius. Prius has certainly established itself as the benchmark of electric hybrid cars, and if plans stay on track, it might do so in the plug-in hybrid space as well. The only place where Toyota has not made many bold statements is in the all-electric car space. Does Toyota not believe much in an all-electric car as a 2nd car for short-distance drivers? O rmay be they are hiding a development program and just waiting until the Teslas, Thinks, IMiEVs of the world fizzle out to then enter with a bang? I find it difficult to believe Toyota does not have an electric car program in advanced stages.

Anyways…until we have enough serious material to talk about plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars from other companies, Prius remains king (queen sounds more appropriate for some reason) of the commercial electrified cars. Its unique styling is still attractive to customers, esp those who are trying to portray a green image to the rest of the world. Its performance is trust-worthy (despite earlier exaggerated claims on mpg, and some slight safety concerns), and its price is now just right for the US customers. Prius is setting the standard for making what the customers want, and doing it with simplicity. Now if they could only bring out the plug-in hybrid soon…no, not the Hymotion/A123 variety, but a real plug-in hybrid that at least goes 40 miles or so on electric drivetrain alone. GM Volt announcements notwithstanding, I get the feeling that Toyota will also rule the plug-in hybrid light duty car market when it emerges.

Japanese ratings call Prius world’s most efficient car, 89.4 mpg (US)! (source)

We already knew the 2010 Toyota Prius would put up some impressive fuel economy numbers but the official Japanese numbers are just insane. On the standard 10-15 test cycle, the new Prius is rated at 89.4 mpg (U.S.) with CO2 emissions of just 61 g/km! While the new Prius is certainly efficient, these numbers certainly seem highly unrealistic. It’s likely that Toyota has calibrated the Japan market model to specifically get the maximum out of this low speed urban drive cycle (average speed 16 mph) and most drivers are unlikely to come anywhere near those numbers. Dedicated hypermilers, of course, can top 90 mpg, but that takes way too much effort. On the newer JC08 test cycle, the numbers drop a bit to a mere 76.7 mpg (U.S.). Here in the U.S. the Prius is rated at 50 mpg combined.

What should happen to the US Automotive Companies?

November 27, 2008

Given my previous professional experience in the automotive industry, I get asked about the current state of the automotive industry a lot. It is usually in the form of a 2-part question:

(1) Should the US automotive industry be allowed to fail, i.e. declare bankruptcy?

(2) Is there an opportunity for new startups to make money in this industry, given the upheavel?

The first question is targeted towards my past experience in the long tail of the automotive supply chain, and the second at my new career as a venture capitalist in the cleantech space. I was planning to write a short post to highlight my point of view, but Michael Cusumano of MIT basically did a fabulous job of answering the first question for me. His answers reflect my thought on the potential bankruptcy of the US big 3 automotive companies. I post his answers below (Source: MIT News).

On the second question, I am still formulating a thesis. My gut instincts say there is certainly potential for venture type opportunities in the automotive space. Its a large industry, growing internationally, an incumbent set of players that are not innovating as fast as they should, an industry burdened by high capital investments so hard to re-tool, and sea-changes related to oil security, fuel efficiency and climate change hitting it straight in the face. Not a bad place to innovate and solve problems that have basically been ignored in the past few decades. Innovation and expediency is badly needed – which happen o=to be trademarks ofstartup  ventures. However, how does one make money in such a capital-intensive, structually complex, and relatively low margin industry, and where in the supply chain should a startup play? I am still answering those questions for myself.

But here is Michael’s answers to the bankruptcy related questions:

3 Questions: Michael Cusumano on letting U.S. automakers fail

November 21, 2008

“3 Questions” is a new series from the MIT News Office that gives members of the community the opportunity to sound off on current events in their field of expertise. In this, the first installment, Michael Cusumano, the Sloan Management Review Professor in Management in the MIT Sloan School of Management, discusses why U.S. automakers should be allowed to fail and what it will take for them to become viable again.

We want to hear your feedback and suggestions. Please contact the News Office at, and be sure to write “3 Questions” in the subject line.

Q. Do you think that U.S. automakers should be allowed to fail?

A. Yes, I think they should file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under the U.S. courts and reorganize. The reason is that the decline in competitiveness of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler is a long-term problem, going back to the 1970s and 1980s, beginning with lagging physical productivity in assembling automobiles compared to the leading Japanese companies, and then in quality and also in engineering productivity for product development. I myself have done research documenting this gap (Michael A. Cusumano, The Japanese Automobile Industry, Harvard, 1985) and was involved for many years in other research undertaken by researchers affiliated with the International Motor Vehicle Program (IMVP), based at MIT and Wharton but with a research network all over the world. IMVP produced the bestseller book by James Womack, Daniel Roos and Daniel Jones, “The Machine that Changed the World” (Lawson, 1991), which documents the state of the world auto industry circa 1990 and the mounting problems of the U.S. automakers. But things have gone from bad to worse. Read the rest of this entry »