A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a unique 17-digit code assigned to each motor vehicle in the United States. The code, which is assigned to the vehicle by the manufacturer before it leaves the plant, not only identifies the specific vehicle (much like a social security number for a person) but also provides detailed information about the vehicle.

Even foreign automotive manufacturers, such as Daimler AG and its subsidiary Mercedes-Benz, must assign VINs to motor vehicles that are intended for sale or importation into the U.S.

In connection with its Mercedes-Benz 2019 Sprinter investigation, TINA.org obtained the VINs associated with each vehicle in a 2,390 sampling of 2019 Sprinter vans listed for sale online by Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the U.S. between February and March 2019 in order to determine where each Sprinter was manufactured. As explained below, TINA.org obtained this information from the 11th digit in the VIN, which represents the plant where the VIN is affixed to the completed vehicle.

Here’s how we cracked the code:


Position Section Meaning Mercedes-Benz 2019 Sprinters
1 WMI Country W = Germany
2 WMI Manufacturer/Maker D = Daimler AG/Mercedes-Benz
3 WMI Vehicle Type 3 = Truck

4 = Multipurpose Passenger Vehicle (MPV)

A = Incomplete Vehicle

Z = Bus

4-8 VDS These five characters identify manufacturer specs, which can include the model, body type, and engine type. Characters used and their placement are determined by the manufacturer.
9 CD Check Digit (used to verify the accuracy of the transcription of the VIN)
10 VIS Make Year K = 2019
11 VIS Plant where the VIN is affixed to the completed vehicle.

P = Dusseldorf, Germany

N = Ludwigsfelde, Germany

T = Charleston, S.C., United States

12-17 VIS Serial Number (unique to each motor vehicle)

*Information submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on each motor vehicle is self-reported by the motor vehicle manufacturer.


NHTSA New Manufacturers Handbook – Requirements for Manufacturers of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment: https://vpic.nhtsa.dot.gov/Manufacturer_Handbook_20180828.pdf

Code of Federal Regulations, 15 CFR Part 565: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CFR-2011-title49-vol6/pdf/CFR-2011-title49-vol6-part565.pdf

NHTSA Product Information Catalog and Vehicle Listing: https://vpic.nhtsa.dot.gov/

NHTSA VIN Decoder: https://vpic.nhtsa.dot.gov/decoder/

Carfax VIN Decoding: https://www.carfax.com/blog/vin-decoding