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A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is the string of 17 numbers and letters that an automobile manufacturer assigns to an individual vehicle.
General Motors originally intended to launch the Volt with a flex-fuel variant, but the emissions package was not ready for the first model year, according to the automaker. We were curious as to what the VIN looked like on an electric vehicle so we decoded the VIN on the 2013 Tesla Model S. Notice that the 10th element in the VIN is "C." The letter represents the 2012 model year, but it could also mean 1982.
Other than using your VIN for deciphering your car's pedigree, you can use it for less entertaining but more important reasons involving its title, registration and insurance.
The VIN can reveal a number of things about a car, including its airbag type, country of origin, engine size, model year and trim level.
The E85 compatibility was apparently incorporated into the VIN data before GM decided a flex-fuel version wouldn't be ready in time for 2011.


The information is pretty thin and goes to show that your results may vary, based on what the carmaker supplies. Fiat is an Italian company that now owns Detroit-based Chrysler and manufactures the 500 at Chrysler's plant in Toluca, Mexico. Because the model year is represented by one character (letter or number) in the VIN and the VIN can only contain 17 characters, the code for model years has to be recycled every 30 years. Another critical use of a VIN is to obtain a vehicle history report for a car you're considering for purchase.
You may have to deal with a few ads that surround the data, but the information is accurate and worth a look.
We might have stumped the decoder tool: It wasn't able to identify Tesla Motors as the manufacturer.
So while one letter can represent more than one year, it should be pretty obvious whether the car is a 1982 or a 2012 — or 2042, for that matter.


Before you buy a used car (even if it's from a dealer), it's important to get the vehicle's VIN and use it to run a history report on sites like AutoCheck or Carfax. Vehicle parts are often specific to certain VINs and may not fit your car if you only go by its year, make and model. We entered a few VINs from former Edmunds long-term test cars and found some interesting information.



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