The European Union has issued a directive to the effect that a VIN must be used for all road vehicles in the EU member states. This directive complies with the ISO Standard but a year digit or factory code is not mandatory. Also, it is left to the choice of the manufacturer whether the VDS is actually used for vehicle attributes or not. The system only applies to motor powered vehicles with at least four wheels capable of speed above 25 km/h and trailers.
In North America, a 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 manufacturers 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 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 represents 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.