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

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

  • 2: CANADA
  • 3: MEXICO
  • 9: BRAZIL
  • J: JAPAN
  • K: KOREA
  • Z: ITALY
  • Vidal

    For classic cars only #1 is American Made. Years later there were so many more brands made in the United State of America that the VIN#’s 4 & 5 had to be added to the VIN list of cars made in the USA.

  • Joseph Joyal

    As far as I remember VIN’s starting with 4&5 are assembled in the USA many of imported parts.

  • donschneider

    some ford fiestas and fusions have a vin beginning with a 3 and some begin with a 4 …what’s up with that ?

    • Jim

      3 is mexico.

  • Chase

    My 2008 Toyota Tacoma’s VIN begins with a ‘5’. I’d always assumed the ‘5’ meant it was manufactured in Japan. Apparently it was manufactured in the USA, but I know (based on the widow sticker) that it was manufactured of mostly imported parts.

    A friend has a 2012 Toyota Corolla, and its VIN begins with a ‘4’.

    Given this information, I can only assume the ‘4’ and ‘5’ mean “Assembled in USA from mostly foreign/imported parts.”

    • 3dCadServices

      Majority of Tacoma’s are built in Texas. Some are built in baja Mexico.
      Corolla Indiana
      Camry in Kentucky
      Lexus in Japan
      Infiniti in Japan
      Sierra GMC MEXICO
      except Denali is made in Detroit
      Durango, Jeep, viper, mustangs Detroit

      Just to name a few
      Does it really matter?

      85% of the parts are coming from Mexico and being delivered just in time to hit all the lines?

      We can make cheaper cars and by making parts outside of USA.
      Osha makes it safer for USA not cheaper.

      Most Vehicles are designed on Catia 3D software and prototypes are built and crashed here in USA. This process takes on AVG 3yrs..
      Employing many Engineering, Designers, Welding Tech, Machinist jobs to help assembly and build the prototypes and jigs.

      Do you like 30k vehicles or 50k ?

      If you buy a new vehicle get them undercoated. All manufacturers are rusting out. Some faster than others..


      You wanna complain about items not being manufacturered in usa, how about asking Apple or Samsung if we can make a phone here instead of China!

      I think both those companies have more money on hand than any automaker.

      Just my thoughts

  • T.Doom

    Don’t be ignorant. China and Taiwan are separate entities, thus have separate VIN country codes. Cars manufactured in Taiwan begins with “RF – RK”.

    • Jack

      Harley uses 5 for models shipped out of usa for export. Different EPA specs. My 2014 ultra starts with 5.
      Also stops reimport to usa because sometimes ( exchange rate) Harley’s are less expensive in Europe if you remove the value added tax VAT

  • Truth

    Except my 2003 Honda Accord EX has a VIN starting with 1.

  • Daniel DeLibro

    Except when i worked for toyota as a master tech we had japanese built cars come in with a 4 for the first digit so that blows that theory

  • Jim

    Tesla 3 starts with 5