Vehicle identification numbers (VINs) were first used by auto manufacturers in 1954. Between 1954 and 1981, there wasn't a standard format and VINs varied considerably between manufacturers. Under standards set by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), every car and light truck model year 1981 or later has a unique 17-digit VIN in a fixed format.
World Manufacturer Identifier
The first three digits of the VIN make up the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) number. However, if a automaker builds fewer than 500 vehicles per year, 9 will be the third digit and 12, 13, 14th position (part of the production number) will make up the second part of the manufacturer's WMI.
The first digit in the VIN indicates the vehicle's country of origin, or final point of assembly. Usually this is the country where the car was made, but in some European countries, it may be the country where the manufacturer is headquartered. Here are some examples:
The second digit in the VIN indicates the manufacturer. Some manufacturers are listed below:
The third digit indicates the vehicle's type or manufacturing division
Vehicle Descriptor Section
Digits 4 through 9 make up the Vehicle Descriptor Section (VDS).
Vehicle Details: Model, Body Style
Digits 4 through 8 identify the vehicle's model, body style, engine type, transmission, and more. Service shops commonly use this information to identify systems installed by the manufacturer so that they can properly service a car.
The ninth digit, or check digit, is used to detect invalid VINs based on a mathematical formula that was developed by the Department of Transportation.