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The model year of a product is a term used worldwide, but with a high level of prominence in North America, to describe approximately when a product was produced, and indicates the coinciding base specification of that product. It is most commonly used in the Automotive industry.

The model year and the actual calendar year of production do not always coincide. For example, a 2009 model year automobile is available during most of the 2009 calendar year, but is usually also available from the third quarter of 2008 because production of the 2009 model began in July and August 2008. When a brand new model is introduced there may be an additional delay to retool and retrain for production of the new model.[citation needed]


Alfred P. Sloan extended the idea of yearly fashion change from clothing to automobiles in the 1920s. His firm General Motors was the first to systematize the process of slightly altering cars every year to grab the buyers' attention.

The term may also be used by European and Japanese automakers in respect of model availability dates in North American markets: these often receive updated models significantly later than domestic markets, especially in the event of unforeseen slow sales causing an inventory build up of earlier versions.

The practice of identifying revisions of automobiles by their "model year" is strongest in the United States. Typically, complete vehicle redesigns of longstanding models occur in cycles of at least five years, with one or two "facelifts" during the model cycle, and are introduced at various times throughout the year. Additionally, introductions of new models are often phased in around the world, meaning that a "2004 model" of a particular vehicle may actually refer to two entirely different vehicles in different countries. Therefore, the more common practice for enthusiasts and motoring writers in other countries is to identify major revisions using the manufacturer's identifier for each revision. For instance, the Holden Commodore, a popular Australian car, are grouped into the following series: VB (introduced 1978), VC (1980), VH (1981), VK (1984), VL (1986), VN (1988), VP (1991), VR (1993), VS (1995), VT (1997), VX (2000), VY (2002), VZ (2004) and VE (2006). This is done for the simple reason of making the cars more easily distinguished.[citation needed]


In the automotive industry the "model year" is absolutely defined only by the manufacturer, and not by any local vehicle registration practices or marketing opinions.

Industry practice varies between markets according both to the level of exports to North America, and the extent to which US owned subsidiaries dominate the domestic automarket.[citation needed] In the 1960s and 1970s, many new models were traditionally introduced at the London or Paris motor shows during October, and manufacturers owned by US corporations as well as domestically controlled UK auto makers tended to follow US auto-industry conventions in respect of model years. The concept was never so universally applied in Europe as in North America, however, and since the 1980s, the more commercially critical European Motor Shows have been the March Geneva Motor Show and the September Frankfurt Motor Show, new models have increasingly been launched in June or July even in the UK, where the two remaining US owned subsidiaries no longer design and build distinctively British Ford and Vauxhall models. All this has left the US style model year concept increasingly absent from the European domestic automarkets.

An automotive model year is categorically defined by the 10th digit of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and simply indicates any manufacturer-specified evolution in mid-cycle of a model range - such as revised paint options, trim options or any other minor specification change. The 10th VIN digit does not relate to the calendar year which the car is built, although the two may coincide. For example, a vehicle produced between July 2006 and June 2007 may have a 7 as the 10th digit of the VIN, and another vehicle produced between July 2007 and June 2008 may have an 8 in the 10th digit - with the change-over date varying depending on manufacturer, model and year.


In the United States, automobile model year sales traditionally begin with the fourth quarter of the preceding year. So model year refers to the "sales" model year; for example, vehicles sold during the period from October 1 to the next December 30 is considered one model year.[1] In addition, the launch of the new model year has long been coordinated to the launch of the traditional new television season (as defined by A.C. Nielsen) in late September, because of the heavy dependence between television to offer products from automakers to advertise, and the car companies to launch their new models at a high-profile time of year.[2]

In other cases, products of a previous model year can continue production, especially if a newer model hasn't yet been released. In that case, the model year remains the same until a new model is introduced. This is to ensure that the model will be seen by the public, and will actually sell an amount of vehicles before a new vehicle model is produced, and people will look at the newer model rather than the previous one.

In the United States, for regulation purposes, government authorities allow cars of a given model year to be sold starting on January 2 of the previous calendar year.[3] This has resulted in a few cars in the next model year being introduced in advertisements during the National Football League(NFL)'s Super Bowl.

See also

  • Car model
  • Vehicle Identification Number
  • Emission standard
  • United States Code
American English British English Euro Car Segment[4] Euro NCAP 1997 - 2009 Euro NCAP[5] Examples
Microcar Microcar, Bubble car A-segment mini cars Supermini Passenger car Isetta, Smart Fortwo
Subcompact car City car Fiat 500, Daewoo Matiz, Peugeot 107, Toyota iQ
Supermini B-segment small cars Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Ford Figo, Opel Corsa, Peugeot 207
Compact car Small family car C-segment medium cars Small family car Ford Focus, Opel Astra, Toyota Auris, Volkswagen Golf, Chevrolet Cruze
Mid-size car Large family car D-segment large cars Large family car Ford Mondeo, Opel Insignia, Volkswagen Passat, Chevrolet Malibu, IKCO Samand
Entry-level luxury car Compact executive car Alfa Romeo 159, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS, Volvo S60, Audi A4, Cadillac CTS
Full-size car Executive car E-segment executive cars Executive car Ford Crown Victoria, Holden Commodore, Toyota Crown, Chrysler 300C, Chevrolet Impala
Mid-size luxury car Lexus GS, BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, Lincoln LS, Audi A6, Volvo S80, Cadillac CTS
Full-size luxury car Luxury car F-segment luxury cars  - Audi A8, Maserati Quattroporte, Lincoln Town Car, Mercedes S-Class, Cadillac DTS
Sports car Sports car S-segment sport coupes  - Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911, Ferrari 458 Italia, Nissan Z-car, Lamborghini Gallardo
Grand tourer Grand tourer  - Jaguar XK, Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, Maserati GranTurismo
Supercar Supercar  - Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Enzo, Pagani Zonda
Convertible Convertible  - BMW 6 Series, Mercedes CLK, Volvo C70, Volkswagen Eos, Chevrolet Camaro
Roadster Roadster Roadster sports Roadster Audi TT, Honda S2000, Lotus Elise, Mazda MX-5, Porsche Boxster,
 - Leisure activity vehicle M-segment multi purpose cars Small MPV MPV Ford Tourneo Connect, Peugeot Partner, Škoda Roomster
 - Mini MPV Opel Meriva, Fiat Idea, Citroen C3 Picasso
Compact minivan Compact MPV, Midi MPV Mazda5, Opel Zafira, Ford C-Max, Volkswagen Touran, Peugeot 5008
Minivan Large MPV Large MPV Chrysler Town and Country, Ford Galaxy, Honda Odyssey, Peugeot 807
Mini SUV Mini 4x4 J-segment sport utility cars (including off-road vehicles) Small Off-Road 4x4 Off-roader Daihatsu Terios, Mitsubishi Pajero iO, Suzuki Jimny, Jeep Wrangler
Compact SUV Compact 4x4 BMW X3, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Chevy Equinox, Jeep Liberty
 - Coupé SUV  - Isuzu VehiCROSS, SsangYong Actyon, BMW X6
Mid-size SUV Large 4x4 Large Off-Road 4x4 Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Volkswagen Touareg, Chevrolet Tahoe
Full-size SUV Cadillac Escalade EXT, Chevrolet Suburban, Range Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser, Jeep Commander
Mini pickup truck Pick-up  - Pick-up Pickup Chevrolet Montana, Fiat Strada, Volkswagen Saveiro
Mid-size pickup truck Chevrolet Colorado, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton/L200, Nissan Navara
Full-size pickup truck Dodge Ram, Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra
Full-size Heavy Duty pickup truck Chevrolet Silverado , Ford Super Duty

References / sources

  1. Glossary of Climate Change Terms | Climate Change | U.S. EPA
  2. Carter, Bill (September 23, 2008). "A Television Season That Lasts All Year", The New York Times. Retrieved on April 5, 2010. 
  3. For legal purposes, various definitions for "model year" are given in US federal laws, including 42 USC 7521(b)(3)(A), 26 USC 4064(b)(4), and 49 USC 32901(a)(15)
  4. European Commission classification
  5. NCAP Comparable cars

External links

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