VIN visible in the windshield
VIN recorded on a Chinese vehicle license
A vehicle identification number (VIN) is a unique code, including a serial number, used by the automotive industry to identify individual motor vehicles, towed vehicles, motorcycles, scooters and mopeds, as defined in ISO 3779 (content and structure) and ISO 4030 (location and attachment).
VINs were first used in 1954 in the United States. From 1954 to 1981, there was no accepted standard for these numbers, so different manufacturers used different formats.
In 1954, at the request of the US government, the US auto manufacturers and the Automobile Manufacturers Association were involved in the creation of the new, standardized vehicle identification numbering system named the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) with an agreed upon digit sequence and concealed chassis markings of this VIN. Up to that time, states used the engine number to register and title cars and trucks which became a problem if the engine was replaced which was fairly common at the time.
In 1981, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the United States standardized the format. It required all on-road vehicles sold to contain a 17-character VIN, which does not include the letters O (o), I (i), and Q (q) (to avoid confusion with numerals 0, 1, and 9).
There are vehicle history services in several countries that help potential car owners use VINs to find vehicles that are defective or have been written off.
There are at least four competing standards used to calculate the VIN.
- FMVSS 115, Part 565: Used in United States and Canada
- ISO Standard 3779: Used in Europe and many other parts of the world
- SAE J853: Very similar to the ISO standard
- ADR 61/2 used in Australia, referring to ISO 3779 and 3780
Modern VINs are based on two related standards, originally issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1979 and 1980: ISO 3779 and ISO 3780, respectively. Compatible but different implementations of these ISO standards have been adopted by the European Union and the United States, respectively.
The VIN comprises the following sections:
World manufacturer identifier
The first three characters uniquely identify the manufacturer of the vehicle using the world manufacturer identifier or WMI code. A manufacturer who builds fewer than 1000 vehicles per year uses a 9 as the third digit, and the 12th, 13th and 14th position of the VIN for a second part of the identification. Some manufacturers use the third character as a code for a vehicle category (e.g., bus or truck), a division within a manufacturer, or both. For example, within 1G (assigned to General Motors in the United States), 1G1 represents Chevrolet passenger cars; 1G2, Pontiac passenger cars; and 1GC, Chevrolet trucks.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in the US assigns WMIs to countries and manufacturers.
The first character of the WMI is the region