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Nov 25 2011

VIN Decoding 101 Part 3: The Market Effect

Have you ever driven in England? How about in India or Japan? Many US drivers, that have traveled abroad, have some colorful and nerve-racking stories about their experiences behind the wheel. These same people are probably confident, knowledgeable drivers in the US. In both situations, they are driving a car with much the same equipment and functionality. So what makes the experience of driving abroad so challenging and perilous?

 While they are still driving a car, that on a mechanical level functions the same, all the information and feedback they have to process to operate it safely is different. The instrumentation may be reversed or in a language they don’t understand. The traffic signage and lights may be completely unfamiliar or undecipherable. Even within countries, traffic laws and etiquette vary greatly between states and provinces (Is a right turn on red legal?).

While on a basic level, you are still driving a car whether you are in Boise or Bangladesh, there is different knowledge and experience needed to operate the vehicle successfully in each area. Knowledge of the traffic rules and signs. Experience to understand the nuances and etiquette of driving in that land. Decoding VINs and Vehicle data are very similar. While you are still working with a VIN and a vehicle at a basic level, the market that the vehicle exists in has a significant effect on what information is available to decode.

Why does the Market affect the VIN?

In the preceding articles, What is a VIN and What’s in the VIN, we talked a lot about the NHTSA Standard CFR 49, Part 565, and how its requirements are enforced within the US. Though not required, almost all markets (A country or group of countries.) follow the ISO standard’s recommendations regarding the use of the WMI and the 17-digit VIN. However, most markets have a regulatory body, similar to the NHTSA, that establishes requirements for that country. While there are common elements that are used extensively, as well as a good amount of overlap on what different markets require, each regulatory body has at least some aspects of its requirements that make them unique to that market.

How the VIN is used depends on the amount of control the market, that the vehicle is going to be sold into, requires. In some markets, there are necessary VIN elements that the US NHTSA standard does not require. Also, certain aspects of the US VIN standard that we might expect to be used globally may have limited or partial use abroad. Some areas of the VIN that fall into this category are the Check Digit (9th), Model Year Digit (10th), and the Plant Digit (11th).

For example, in the European Union, there are not the same tight regulations for VIN assignment as there are in the US. They follow the ISO standard but do not have many additional requirements beyond that. However, many European manufacturers also sell vehicles in the US market, so it might not be surprising to see that many use elements of the NHTSA Standard. As a result, you will find many models and trims, destined for the European market, that are using the 9th digit for checksum and the 10th digit for the model year. However, because there are no requirements to include them, these same vehicle manufacturers may include these elements in the VINs of certain types and models of vehicles they produce for sale in the EU, but not in others.

An example from the other side of the spectrum is Canada. The Canadian equivalent of the NHTSA is Transport Canada. While these two regulatory bodies operate independently of each other, they make efforts to keep their requirements for vehicles reasonably similar. This is the case with the use of VINs. Canada and the US have near identical VIN requirements for Light-Duty and Passenger Vehicles. However, there still are minor differences in the standards that need to be accounted for.

The Importance of Expertise

Each market has its own unique VIN requirements or lack thereof. This makes decoding the VIN a challenge specific to the market. While decoding all VINs globally with a single VIN decoder instance is theoretically possible for at least basic information, there are significant advantages to working with VIN decoders specific to your market of interest. The decoder, and data used to support it, have been optimized to extract and return the most detailed and deep information possible based on the VIN requirements of that market.

Further, established data providers have relationships with the vehicle manufacturers in their market, which allows them access to much additional information about the vehicle and VIN Pattern. As a result, these providers are able to tie additional information and data, common to the VIN, to the vehicle you are decoding. The result is a significant increase in the amount of information that you can extract from the VIN and use for your business purposes. This, second level of data, is usually the most valuable portion of the data provided by the decoding service.

Proceed to our next article on VIN terminology

VIN Decoding 101 Article Index

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