Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn
1050 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D. C. 20036-5339
Dear Mr. Henneberger:
This responds to your request for an interpretation of the production sequence numbering requirements in 49 CFR Part 565, Vehicle Identification Number - Content Requirements. You asked whether a manufacturer must begin at 000001 when assigning production sequence numbers to vehicles in a given model year (MY). The answer is no. The production sequence numbering may begin at any six-digit number. However, when the manufacturer decides on a beginning number for a model year, it must assign numbers to the vehicles in sequence following that beginning number.
You stated in your letter that you believe that Section 565.4(d)(3) does not preclude a manufacturer from beginning, in any model year, its numbering sequence at any number, provided that the numbers assigned following the beginning number are sequential for the whole model year. You provided a hypothetical example of a manufacturer wishing, for a particular model year, to begin its production sequence numbering with 300001, and to continue to assign numbers sequentially (after 300001) for the rest of that model year.
Section 565.4(d)(3) does not specify that a manufacturer must begin its production sequence numbering from number one, but instead provides only that the numbers assigned in a given model year must be in sequence. As noted by your letter, the issue you raised was addressed in an August 17, 1978 (43 FR 36448) final rule amending Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 115, Vehicle Identification Number (which at the time, included VIN content requirements). In the preamble to the 1978 final rule, NHTSA addressed a concern raised by the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) that some members might wish to keep secret the actual numbers of vehicles they manufacture annually. The agency stated, "Since a manufacturer may begin his sequence at any number . . ., so long as the order thereafter is maintained in sequence, the actual number of vehicles produced can be kept secret." (See 43 FR 36448, at 36451)
Therefore, in the hypothetical example you provide, the manufacturer may begin the production sequence numbering from 300001, as long as for the rest of the model year, the vehicles are assigned numbers in sequence following 300001.
I hope this information is helpful. If you need any further information, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel