The Manufacturer Connection

The Manufacturers Information Group is the liaison between the vehicle and boat manufacturers, working closely with them to obtain data used for investigative purposes.

The Manufacturer Connection

By Maggie Shimkus

It all started over 110 years ago with a stolen vehicle and a way to identify it. Back then, automobiles looked a lot different, and they were a lot easier to steal. The way that they were reported stolen was a lot harder. 

At the time, most manufacturers did not mark their cars and the way to report a stolen vehicle required a woodcut from the dealership. Fred J. Sauter, the Chicago office manager of the Boston Insurance Company, thought there had to be an easier way, and from there NICB (formerly NATB) was born. 

While NICB has expanded its focus over the past century, the first 75 years or so of our organization’s history were dominated by vehicle-related initiatives. Fortunately, all manufacturers now mark their vehicles, and years of relationships and advanced technology have made getting this information a lot easier.

The Manufacturers Information Group (MIG) is a department within NICB. It is the liaison between the vehicle and boat manufacturers, working closely with them to obtain data used for investigative purposes.

It All Starts With A VIN
The unique 17-character code used to identify a vehicle, such as the manufacturer, make, model, vehicle year, and where it was built. It is also used to track recalls, registrations, and thefts. The first three characters of the VIN, known as the World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI), identify the manufacturer of the vehicle. 

Due to their relationship with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), MIG has access to the World Manufacturer Identifier list. If there is a new VIN that comes through, including as a request from NICB’s Investigative Assistance department, the MIG team can look at the information and see who made it and what they made. MIG also works closely with the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) to create codes used by law enforcement agencies to enter stolen vehicles. The information from both groups is crucial in decoding a VIN.

Collaboration is Vital 
Due to the nature of their work, the MIG team knows how vital collaborative relationships are. The team has worked for years to create relationships with manufacturers, law enforcement, and industry organizations to continue gathering information. They have continued growing these relationships because of a mutual trust and willingness to help. 

Manufacturers are not required to report their VINs or, in the case of a boat, hull identification numbers (HINs) to NICB, which is crucial information for the organization, members, and law enforcement. Thankfully, efforts being made by industry associations are helping to drive change. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) assists NICB by making it a requirement for boat manufacturers to report records to NICB for the watercraft they produce to receive and maintain their NMMA certification.

Vehicle manufacturers who give their information to NICB do so on a goodwill basis. While there are other avenues that NICB could use to decode VINs, getting the information directly from the manufacturer is preferrable. Not only is the information coming straight from the manufacturer, but having a contact at these companies is a tremendous asset. These contacts are the best resources to build the VINAssist program and annual VIN manuals. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) instructs the manufacturer to submit any VIN stamping errors to NICB. MIG makes note of the stamping error and how it was rectified by the manufacturer in NICB’s system. This will aid investigators in the event there is a question about the validity of the stamping. NICB’s Investigative Assistants can confirm the discrepancy when an inquiry comes in from law enforcement during an investigation or vehicle inspection. 

Building Relationships, Fighting Fraud 
The information compiled by MIG has assisted agents and law enforcement, both nationally and globally, with identifying stolen vehicles. Time spent looking at pictures of parts and tracing them back to stolen vehicles—some as far as Poland—has nurtured relationships with law enforcement and proven a rewarding experience. 

There is a trickle-down effect to the work of the Manufacturer Information Group. It’s so much more than just providing a year, make, and model of a vehicle. The information gathered from these partnerships extends out to our members and the law enforcement community and helps drive our mutual success to fight vehicle-related crime. 

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422) or submitting a form on our website.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to combatting and preventing insurance crime through Intelligence, Analytics, and Operations; Education and Crime Prevention; and Strategy, Policy, and Advocacy. The NICB is supported by more than 1,200 property-casualty insurers, self-insureds, rental car, vehicle finance, and auto auctions. To learn more, visit