Washington, D.C. – The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced a new ruling that will amend the Vehicle Information Number (VIN) requirement so that the system will remain viable for at least another thirty years. The rule was initiated by a petition from SAE International, which was concerned that the available supply of 17-digit VINs might run out. The new ruling becomes effective on vehicles manufactured on or after October 27, 2008.

NHTSA will revise certain information that must be communicated in the VIN, as well as the characters that may be used in some of the positions. This will drastically reduce the need to issue new manufacturer identifiers, particularly for large manufacturers, preserving for a longer period of time the remaining combinations of characters that are available to be issued. Secondly, the changes will substantially increase the number of combinations of characters available in positions four through eight of the VIN, as well as combinations of those characters with those in other VIN positions, enabling the current 17-character system to continue for another 30 years and possibly longer.

The rule also now makes it clear that Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs) require a VIN, but they have been dropped from the list of vehicles that are limited to an alphabetic character in the seventh position of the VIN.

Since 1954, American automobile manufacturers have been required to use a VIN to describe and identify each of the motor vehicles they manufacture. A systematic VIN scheme was put in place on January 1, 1969, requiring that each passenger vehicle have a VIN permanently “sunk or embossed” on a part of the vehicle visible through the windshield at the left front pillar. Manufacturers were required to avoid duplicate VINs within a ten-year period. The current system of 17-character VINs in a fixed format was regulated with the 1981 model year, which included a requirement that VINs could not be repeated in a 30-year period.

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