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Dec 19 2012

Since 1981 the global vehicle manufacturing community has used the 17 digit VIN as a means to uniquely identify a vehicle.  The VIN captures basic vehicle information as part of an international standard, and in some countries, like the US, it is used to capture additional data. In the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, is tasked with regulating the information the VIN must capture, how it is assigned and to whom.  Some of the many benefits of the VIN system include being able to identify and recall vehicles with safety issues, track vehicle's accident and maintenance history, and identify vehicles that have been stolen.


The NHTSA's has jurisdiction over motor vehicles driven on "public streets, roads, and Highways" and as such they are focused on "on-road" vehicles only.  Off-road vehicles like dirt bikes, ATV's and snowmobiles are not required by the NHTSA to be assigned a VIN number.  However, as they have grown in popularity, and in cost, the benefits of assigning VINs to them was realized by manufacturers and started to become common place.

In 2003, the NHTSA provided clarification of their standard discouraging the assignment of a VIN to "Off-Road" vehicles manufactured in the US.  In 2005, effective January 1st, the NHTSA stated that new VIN numbers will no longer be issued for off-road vehicles. Existing WMI's (World Manufacturer Identifier) used before 2005 are grandfathered in.  However, there is documentation to suggest that even the use of existing WMIs and VINs for off-road recreational vehicles is under review by NHTSA and will be discouraged in the future.  Foreign manufactured off-road vehicles are not affected, since almost all foreign regulatory bodies direct manufacturers to use the same VIN and WMI assignment system for off-road vehicles that is used for passenger cars.  

This appears to present a challenge and some additional complexity for domestic manufacturers of "off-road" vehicles.  To sell internationally, they must be compliant with the ISO standard which requires a 17 digit identification number be assigned to their vehicles.  However, a solution was put in place that appears to have made the changed stance by the NHTSA a moot point. SAE International (Society of Automotive Engineers) is the company contracted by the NHTSA to oversee WMI assignment in the US.  SAE has stepped in and created a standard that is compatible with the ISO VIN Standard for "Off-Road" vehicles.  SAE provides a 17 digit Product Identification Number (PIN) that is used to uniquely identify recreational "off-road" vehicles.  The SAE PIN is controlled by SAE and is voluntary for manufacturers to participate in. 

How many manufacturers have bought into the PIN system vs the VIN system?  It's hard to tell.  Why?  SAE created their PIN system to assign 17-digit numbers compliant with the VIN standard.  So PINs and VINs look pretty much identical to the end user and even to international regulators. As a result, the PIN system fulfills the requirements of the ISO VIN standard used internationally while also being in agreement with the NHTSAs stance on assigning VINs.  Even the first three digits of the PIN are used in the same way as the WMI and are referred to as the World Manufacturers Code, or WMC.  Sounds pretty similar right?

So, while the 17 digit number on the dash of your dirt bike could either be a "VIN" or a "PIN", the structure and format are the same and it should be able to be decoded just like a VIN.

If you are interested in a solution for your business that can "VIN decode" motorcycles and "PIN decode" dirt bikes contact us.  DataOne has both delivered database and web service products that can meet your powersports decoding needs.  Click on the button below to contact us and find out more about our products and solutions.

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