The standard by which the manufacturer assigns an identification number to each manufactured car, the so-called VIN (abbreviation of the term Vehicle Identification Number), was first used in 1954 in the United States of America, but it was not until 1981 that the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standardized the VIN format.

By the way, before the advent of the VIN code, cars were mostly identified by the serial number of the engine. From the beginning, it was also true that the number of the chassis coincided with the number of the built-in unit. For cars with a self-supporting body, the main identity bearer was the body number.

Cars tend to have the VIN stamped on the bodywork inside the engine compartment (usually on the right front, on a fixed part that is not easily replaceable), but it is also found on other parts of the car, today it is also usually located visibly on a label on the left front under the windshield. Here, according to the VIN, the emergency services can read the details about the car.

The VIN is a seventeen-digit code that uniquely identifies the car, as the code can only be repeated after 30 years due to its composition. This means that a car made today may have a 30-year-old “double”, however, this is quite unlikely.

The shape of the VIN number is basically uniform for the whole world and various information can be read from it. In its basic form, the first three characters of the VIN are intended to identify the manufacturer, with the first two characters of this World WMI code specifying the manufacturer’s region and country of origin, and the third character being assigned to a specific brand.

“The letters in the series TJ to TP are intended for the Czech Republic, and Škoda Auto specifically uses the manufacturer’s code TMB,” explains Jiří Vašina from Škoda Auto, adding that, for example, India has codes starting with MA–ME, Japan starts with J, Chinese VIN codes they start with an L, and in North America countries are numbered, so USA is number 1, Canada is 2, etc. Europe has codes starting with the letters N-Z. Volkswagen in Germany has a W code, so the resulting WMI code is WVW. The code is assigned to the manufacturer by the authorized approval authority in the country where the manufacturer is based.

By the way, Škoda Auto has been using the VIN marking of its cars since the 1984 model year.

The engine and the number of airbags can be detected

Positions 4 to 9 in the VIN contain the so-called vehicle description code, which determines the model of the car in question. Its appearance is up to the manufacturer. In this case, Škoda Auto uses a format where there is a so-called check digit in position 9, which makes it possible to verify that the VIN is real and not just randomly invented. “For Škoda cars, this part of the VIN allows you to find out the type of body, engine, information about restraint systems and the type of car. In Škoda Enyaq iV electric cars, the powertrain performance can be determined from the fifth position of the VIN,” describes Vašina’s details.

The designation A means a car with a power of 109 kW, the letter B belongs to a car with a power of 132 kW, the power of 150 kW has the letter C, E is for cars with a power of 195 kW and F for the highest power of 220 kW.

You can tell a lot from the descriptive code – for example, the Škoda Octavia Combi with a 1.5 TSI engine has the VIN code TMBJR8NX*PYxxxxxx. The VDS description code begins with the letter J, which indicates a station wagon body, left-hand drive and single-axle drive. The letter R in the fifth position of the VIN code indicates the 1.5 TSI/110 kW engine. The following number 8 symbolizes two front airbags, four side airbags and two head airbags. The seventh and eighth positions of the VIN code with the letters NX indicate the Octavia model series, in place of the asterisk in the next position there will be a check digit, which is calculated from the complete VIN code. The letter P belongs to the model year 2023 and the letter Y to the production plant in Mladá Boleslav.

Electric cars do not have a special sign, the fact that it is a purely electric drive can be recognized from the combination of letters in the overall fifth, seventh and eighth position of the VIN code.

What’s the code, what’s the original

Positions 10 to 17 then form a unique code (VIS, Vehicle Identifier Section), which can be created again at will. In this case, Škoda Auto again uses a more detailed “American” (the idea of ​​introducing VIN comes from the USA after all) format, where the character in position 10 determines the model year of the car – but not the year of manufacture, it can vary! The year 2010 was assigned the letter A, the year 2011 the letter B, and so on. It should be noted here that the letters O, I and Q are generally omitted in the VIN to avoid confusion with the numbers 0, 1 and 9. It is the character in this position that must not be repeated for 30 years and is determined by a more detailed regulation.

Position 11 in the VIN of Škoda cars indicates the production plant where the car was manufactured. “Characters 0 to 4 indicate different operations in Mladá Boleslav, cars from Kvasin have numbers 5 to 9 in this position. But this is not a rule, manufacturers can also use letters in these positions, which Škoda Auto also uses in some cases,” says Vašina .

Photo: Škoda Auto

Analysis of the VIN identification number.

Important code for checking a used car

Thanks to the VIN, you can also check the history of the car, for example when buying a used one. By checking the code, you can find out if the car has been wrecked, has had an engine replaced, adjusted mileage, etc. This is also why there are still cases of VIN manipulation in order for fraudsters to disguise the true origin of the car. However, due to the detailed description of the car using the VIN, it is extremely difficult today to actually fake a VIN.

“However, there are cases where entire parts of the body have been replaced, or perhaps a vehicle has been split in half and connected to another. Then any inconsistency in the car’s configuration with what the VIN data claims should be a clear warning sign,” Vašina points out.