From what I understand, in ISO 3779 Standard VIN Numbers, the 4th-9th digits are used (differently) by manufacturers to indicate things like Make, Line and Body Style. But after some research, I can't find any examples or data for how manufacturers use this section. Is this information public or is it only released internally?

For example:

I have: WBAVB7202********

From the WBA I know it is a BMW, but can I lookup the VB7202 to find more about the car?

1 Answer 1


VIN formatting

As you already know, VIN = Vehicle Identification Number and it's based on ISO 3779 and 3780. It's formatted like this and can use all digits and capital letters except I, O and Q (because they look too much like the digits 1 and 0).

| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10| 11| 12| 13| 14| 15| 16| 17|   
|   WMI     |         VDS           |             VIS               |
|   manf    |   vehicle type    | CS| MY| PC|   sequential number   |

Standard abbreviations:

WMI = World Manufacturer Identifier

managed by Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)

VDS = Vehicle Descriptor Section

VIS = Vehicle Identification Section

My nomenclature

CS = checksum

MY = model year (codes are in ISO 3779)

PC = plant code


As it says above, the WMI (manufacturer code) is managed by the SAE, essentially on behalf of ISO. The checksum algorithm and model year encodings are standardized, but everything else is up to the manufacturer to manage. Many manufacturers make their VIN encodings public, but some don't or they release only partial information.

For vehicles sold in the US only, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires, under CFR 49, Part 565, that manufacturers submit documentation on the vehicle type, model year and plant codes. Under that regulation, the VDS is required to minimally contain model, engine, series, body and safety system data. See http://vpic.nhtsa.dot.gov/ for more on that.

As a practical matter, there are a number of online VIN decoders that have attempted to gather this information and present it in a useful form, but there is no universal registry for the encodings.

  • Excellent answer; well done. Most "enthusiast" vehicles have some sort of VIN decoder software or guru or information, but the style of the information varies from marque to marque (and even chevy vs olds vs pontiac) and no OEM is under any obligation to reveal it, or for it even to make sense, for that matter. The first 3 characters are the WhoMadeItWhere info. This is universal. Char 10 is the model year. There are no letter "I" or letter "O" codes ever to avoid confusion with one and zero, which makes some decoding a bit trickier. But consistant.
    – SteveRacer
    May 20, 2017 at 3:39

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