Mr. Stuart McKenzie
McKenzie Auto Consulting
254 Dereham Road, New Costessey, Norwich, NR5 0SN;
Registered office: 6 Corunna Court, Corunna Road,
Warwick, Warwickshire, CV34 5HQ
Dear Mr. McKenzie:
This responds to your emailed letter requesting an interpretation on a proposed VIN correction system to be employed in the event of the application of an incorrect VIN to a series production vehicle. Specifically, you describe a situation in which a small vehicle manufacturer mistakenly applies an incorrect vehicle identification number (VIN) to a vehicle, voids the original incorrect VIN, and applies the correct VIN immediately below that position. You ask whether this system would be acceptable to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) if the manufacturer later imported such vehicles into the U.S. through a Registered Importer.
In a follow-up email to Rebecca Schade of my staff, you clarified that the mistake would be identified while the vehicle was still on the production line; and that you are only asking about correcting the stamping of an incorrect VIN on the chassis and are not asking about destroying or obliterating the VIN on the vehicles dash, certification plate, or parts required to be marked by the Motor Vehicle Theft Law Enforcement Act of 1984 (18 U.S.C. 511).
Based on the information you provided, our answer is that you may correct a mistake made in the number stamped on the vehicles chassis in the manner you described.
NHTSA requires vehicles to be marked with VINs to simplify vehicle identification information retrieval and to increase the accuracy and efficiency of vehicle recall campaigns (49 CFR Part 565, Vehicle Identification Number Requirements). Among
other things, Part 565 specifies that the VIN must be marked on the vehicle dash. In addition, NHTSA also requires the VIN to be on the vehicles certification label (49 CFR Part 567) and an identifying number (usually the VIN) to be marked on 18 major parts subject to the parts marking requirements of the theft protection standard (49 CFR Part 541). The purpose of Part 541 is to reduce the incidence of motor vehicle thefts by facilitating the tracing and recovery of parts from stolen vehicles.
The chassis is not among the major parts that must be marked under the theft prevention standard (see 541.5). Since the chassis is not required to be marked by Part 541, NHTSA does not prohibit you from voiding (which you said involves destroying or obliterating) the incorrect marking on the chassis and applying the correct VIN immediately below that position. The number you marked on the chassis is simply a number, and is not subject to prohibitions against altering VINs. Any alteration of an identification number on a vehicles chassis is not subject to regulation, and would need no correction system.
Importing the Vehicle
Under the scenario you described, the vehicle manufacturer realizes the VIN is incorrect and corrects the VIN on the dash and on the certification label while the vehicle is still on the production line. Since the vehicle will not have destroyed or obliterated VINs on the dash plate, certification label or on the 18 major parts listed in the theft protection standard (541.5), NHTSA would have no problem with the vehicle being imported into the U.S. through a Registered Importer, as long as it complied with all other safety, bumper, and theft standards.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca Schade of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke
 565.4(f) states that The VIN for passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles and trucks of 4536 kg or less GVWR shall be located inside the passenger compartment. It shall be readable, without moving any part of the vehicle, through the vehicle glazing under daylight lighting conditions by an observer having 20/20 vision (Snellen) whose eye-point is located outside the vehicle adjacent to the left windshield pillar. Each character in the VIN subject to this paragraph shall have a minimum height of 4 mm.
 There are restrictions on altering or removing a VIN on a part that is required to be marked by the theft prevention standard. The Motor Vehicle Theft Law Enforcement Act of 1984, as codified in relevant part at 18 U.S.C. 511, prohibits altering or removing vehicle identification numbers. The provision is administered by the Department of Justice (DOJ). For information about this provision, you may contact the DOJ at: Policy and Statutory Enforcement Unit, Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20530-0001.