Since 1981, global automotive manufacturers have utilized a complex 17-character system called a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that uniquely describes a vehicle for identification purposes. This number provides a coded description of the vehicle including: manufacturer, year of production, place of production and vehicle characteristics. Because of its unique position within the mobility industry, SAE International® was contracted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), to assign a selected portion of the VIN, specifically called the World Manufacturers Identifier (WMI).
Over the years, this system was used to accommodate both on-road and selected off-road recreation vehicles (e.g. ATVs, dirt bikes, and snowmobiles). In 2003, NHTSA reviewed and provided clarification to SAE regarding the types of vehicles to be included in the VIN system. Since NHTSA's function is to regulate "motor vehicles" defined as "a vehicle driven on public streets, roads, and highways" it was clear that off-road vehicles were outside the regulatory jurisdiction of NHTSA and could not be included in the system. As of January 1, 2005, new VIN numbers were no longer issued for off-road vehicles (ORVs).
Faced with the possibility of the emergence of inconsistent formats from competing manufacturers, SAE International worked with ORV manufacturers to establish a sister program to the existing VIN program. The WMC/PIN™ program, managed by SAE Industry Technologies Consortia, provides an ISO-compatible World Manufacturer Code (WMC) that is consistent with and takes the place of the WMI within a 17-character Product Identification Number (PIN) for off-road vehicles.