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What is a VIN Number and why use a VIN number
The Vehicle Identification Number was originally described in ISO Standard 3779 in February 1977 and last revised in 1983. The ISO-VIN was designed to identify motor vehicles, trailers, motorcycles and mopeds and consists of three VIN number guide sections:
WMI - World Manufacturer Identifier, which uniquely identifies the maker of the vehicle. It occupies the first three positions of the VIN, except when a manufacturer builds less than 500 vehicles per year, in which case the third digit is always a 9 and the 12th, 13th and 14th position of the VIN are used for the second part of the WMI. The WMI is described in ISO 3780.
VDS - Vehicle Descriptor Section. These 6 characters occupy positions 4 through 9 of the VIN and may be used by the manufacturer to identify attributes of the vehicle.
VIS - Vehicle Identifier Section. The last 8 characters of the VIN are used for the identification a of specific vehicle. The last four characters shall always be numeric.
ISO 3779 makes a provision for a code for the year in which a vehicle is built. When a manufacturer uses a year code, ISO recommends that the 10th position of the VIN is used.
The same applies to the use of a factory code. When a manufacturer uses a factory or plant code, ISO recommends that the 11th position of the VIN is used. In the VIN-code, capital letters A through Z and numbers 1 through 0 may be used, except the letters I, O and Q for obvious reasons. No signs or spaces are allowed in the VIN.
In North America, a VIN number guide system is used that is far more stringent than the ISO Standards but is, to use a computer phrase, downward compatible. Here, the VIN is divided in four sections:
The first three characters shall uniquely identify the manufacturer, make and type of vehicle (with the same exception of manufacterers that produce less than 500 vehicles). Effectively, this is the WMI. There are indeed examples of manufacturers who have more than one WMI that use the third character as a code for a vehicle category (for instance bus or truck). Just as often however this is not the case;
The second section consists of five characters (VIN positions 4-8) and identify the attributes of the vehicle. For each type of vehicle (passenger cars, MPV's, trucks, buses, trailers, motorcycles, incomplete vehicles other than trailers), different information is required. For cars, MPV's and light trucks it is required that the first two characters of this section are alphabetic, the third and fourth shall be numeric and the fifth alphanumeric. This section is the VDS in ISO 3779 but there it comprises another position of the VIN;
The third section consist of one character which is the check digit, calculated over the other 16 characters of the VIN. This character can be numeric or the letter X;
The fourth VIN number guide section consists of eight characters on positions 10-17 of the VIN. The last five shall be numeric for cars, MPV's and light trucks and the last four shall be numeric for all other vehicles. The first character represents the vehicle model year, the second character representents the plant of manufacture. The third through eighth characters are a sequential production number (for manufacturers producing more than 500 vehicles per year). For other manufacturers, the sixth, seventh and eight position represent the sequential production number. This section confirms to the VIS in ISO 3779.
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