No One Seems To Know Why Audi Shipped Thousands Of Cars With The Same VIN

Graphic Credit: Jason Torchinsky
Graphic Credit: Jason Torchinsky

If you were to spot someone furtively stuffing bottles of ammonia, large blocks of Swiss cheese, and an embalmed marmot into a large duffel bag while looking around nervously, you’d probably think that something was up. You wouldn’t really have any idea what, exactly, was up, but it sure as hell feels like some kind of fuckery is going on. That’s the same feeling I get when I read about Audi building thousands of cars with the same Vehicle Identification Number.


The German business journal Handelsblatt wrote that, while state prosecutors were investigating Audi’s corporate files for Dieselgate-related documents, they also discovered evidence that, “thousands of Audis exported to China, Korea or Japan may have the same vehicle identification number.”

As you know, a car’s VIN is supposed to be a unique 17-digit number, a number that stays with the car throughout its life, and, by law, must remain unduplicated for at least 30 years.

Clearly, producing thousands of cars with identical VINs is not normally done.

If a handful of cars were built with the same VIN you could likely attribute that to some sort of organizational or mechanical error. But thousands of cars, all with the same number? An error of that magnitude would be extremely improbable.

The real question here is not how it happened, but why? If we assume that the duplication of all those VINs was intentional, what possible purpose could that serve? Since these cars were all sent to Asian markets, could it be some strange way to get around import restrictions? If you have to list the VINs for every car sent to a given region, but one VIN could refer to thousands of cars instead of one, that’d be a pretty nifty hack, I suppose.

Could it be something to confuse possible future recalls? What the hell is going on? What’s your angle, Audi?


The experts are baffled as well, with Handelsblatt reporting that:

Investigators admitted that they are mystified about what purpose would be served by producing vehicles with the same VIN number.


Audi, of course, is playing dumb, with a spokesperson saying:

We are not aware of the fact the VIN numbers have been issued more than once.

Because, of course they’re not. I reached out to Audi as well, and will update the story if and when I get a response back.


In the meantime, we may as well guess about what the hell Audi could be up to. My current theory is that, in partnership with the Large Hadron Collider, Audi has figured out how to build cars in the Multiverse, and are just building a car once, but across thousands of parallel universes, and then taking those cars and selling them all here, at a massive manufacturing cost savings.

The drawback is that, since they’re all the same car from parallel universes, they all have the same VIN. And maybe one or two use blood for oil, or something.


Anyway, guess away! We have as much chance as figuring out what the fuck these guys are up to as anyone!



For Audi, VIN stands for Vehicles w/ Identical Numbers