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Want a Car 'Made in the U.S.A'? Then Check the First Digit of the VIN Code

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There's been a lot of talk lately about supporting the domestic (U.S.) manufacturers especially after the current crisis that saw Chrysler filing for bankruptcy and GM axing a bunch of brands including Pontiac, Hummer and Saturn. Everyone has their own opinion on this issue, but if your number one criteria for buying a car is whether or not it's made in the U.S.A., or whichever country you reside in for that matter, then you ought to check the vehicle's 17-digit-long Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) code that was standardized by SAE in 1981.

In particular, the very first digit of the VIN determines the geographical region the car is built in, regardless of where the manufacturer is headquartered. But while a #1, #4 and #5 should mean that the car was built in the USA, Kelley Blue Book's Classic Car Guide Editor, Phil Skinner, told the LA Times that only the #1 represents the USA, with the #4 and #5 usually meaning the car was made in another country.

Confused? So are we. If it's not made in the U.S., then why does it say so? Well, even though we spent a good three hours on the net searching to find what is the difference between #1 and #4 (or 4A-40) and 5# (or 5A-50), unfortunately we came up empty handed. If any of you happen to know the answer, please leave a comment below.

Via: NASIOC , Source: LA Times

VIN Code Country of Origin

  • 1: UNITED STATES
  • 2: CANADA
  • 3: MEXICO
  • 4: UNITED STATES
  • 5: UNITED STATES
  • 6: AUSTRALIA
  • 9: BRAZIL
  • J: JAPAN
  • K: KOREA
  • L: CHINA , TAIWAN
  • M: THAILAND
  • S: UNITED KINGDOM
  • T: HUNGARY
  • V: FRANCE
  • W: GERMANY
  • X: RUSSIAN FEDERATION
  • Y: FINLAND, SWEDEN
  • Z: ITALY

11 Comments:

Max said... »May 02, 2009

Hmmm, that's a problem, the easiest way might be to check out ware the model it's made, on the internet, i mean some models are produced only in specific factories, or you can ask the dealer.
note: the new Ford Fiesta will be made in Europe and maybe Mexico, but maybe the pig/swine flu on the lose, Ford will move the production of the new Fiesta in the US trough.

Anonymous said... »May 02, 2009

it might be a matter of american content or manufactured in the US but with foreign made content.
--Jorge

Anonymous said... »May 02, 2009

Hi Max,

Think cars don't get swine flu, so it should be okay. :)

Max said... »May 02, 2009

Yeah, but most plants in Mexico have been been stopped for a few days, and if the situation will get worst they will be shot down foe weeks, Ford can't afford that.

Anonymous said... »May 02, 2009

I thought the Carfax on my Lexus said it was assembled in the U.S. It's VIN does start with "J".

Jenny said... »May 02, 2009

Almost all Lexus models are produced in Toyota's Tahara plant in Aichi, Japan.

Anonymous said... »May 02, 2009

I recall reading someplace that the "5" was used for Ford trucks. My Dad had a Lincoln Mark LT, which is nothing but a facny F-150 and the first few VIN numbers were, "5LT..."

Paul F said... »May 03, 2009

#5 is a vehicle built in the USA but is an export model (non US spec). Manufactures use a 5 so the vehicle can be easily identified if somebody tries to re-import them and avoid changing the specs back to US.

Phil Skinner said... »May 04, 2009

First, there was something lost in the orginal translation I quoted for the L.A. Times. The "4" at the start of the VIN indicates a car was made in the USA, but at a plant who has its headquarters in another country. Such as the BMW Z4, Toyotas, Hondas, etc., made in the USA. The #5 appears to be reserved for commercial vehicles made in the USA by USA based companies. Phil Skinner-Kelley Blue Book

John said... »May 04, 2009

Thanks for clarifying that Phil.

Anonymous said... »May 05, 2009

Interesting Information... Great to know... but i only wish more people would know about these details. Here in Lebanon most of our used cars are imported from the US, since the Euro is so expensive, but salesmen still try to convince (connive) you that it's a European car (from Germany). most cars sold as used are German brands (most made in the US). some people are stupid enough to believe a purchase despite the fact that the speedo reads in imperial not Metric. not to mention that the car might be glued back together from 2 separate cars.... but that doesn't happen very often...

Ron

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