How Does a Vehicle's Model Year (MY) Really Work?


I have a question that seems to be a hard one to get an answer for: 

I do understand the difference in between MY, Build Date and Compliance Date, however how can an intending customer know when, in this case, Jeep will release (or has released) a new MY for a vehicle model and as of when that MY starts being built (and is delivered into dealerships)?

In my case, for the Jeep Grand Cherokee, I'd like to know when Jeep will start building the MY16 so I can order a MY16 regardless of if is built in what is remaining of 2015? Hope this make sense to you. - Douglas


The ‘MY’ term relates more to specifications, and less to time/date. So, unless there’s a specification update, in some markets cars made in 2016 will still be MY15 cars. If the manufacturer does a cosmetic upgrade, adds Apple CarPlay and adaptive cruise, then the new spec level becomes MY16. (It could be as minor as different paint or trim options - any excuse will do…)

In practice, what you usually see is a new MY introduced in Q3 of the preceding year - although there are different definitions of ‘MY’ by region and manufacturer.

The usual definition is: "The model year of a product is a number used worldwide, but with a high level of prominence in North America, to describe approximately when a product was produced, and it usually indicates the coinciding base specification (design revision number) of that product.”

In North America, MY16 cars can be sold as early as Jan 2, 2015. This is legislated. In Europe, the definition of MY is completely at the manufacturer’s discretion - so it can mean anything.

This might help as well: "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."

The date to concern yourself with, in my view, is the build date. It’s always a dud deal to get a Q3 build date because at trade-in time the dealer will try to convince you the vehicle is a year older than you think/prefer. This is a price-reduction strategy. January is a much better build date, come trade-in time.


Thanks a lot for your email. I was in fact clear of the difference in between MY and Build Date (Manufacturing Date) but your explanation was very good and comprehensive, I very much appreciate it.

The question then is how one gets to know when a new MY (model specs) is coming or will be coming or will be released?, moreover how one knows when cars start getting built with the latest MY specs?, in my case for the Jeep Cherokee.

A point made very clear is about getting a car in Q3, thanks for that, it makes perfectly sense for future resale/trading values. But let's say money is not the issue (I'm not bloody millionaire, wish I was...) but just to focus on improvements/corrections, technology and latest specs, if I know a new MY (specs) is coming soon I'd rather hold off to get the car built with the latest specs but if that's not happening for another 6 months I prefer to buy my car now, so again how can I know that so I can make my mind if buying now or later?


North American cars are generally MY[current year +1] from the middle of the preceding year.

For upcoming substantive upgrades I’d just monitor the press via Google - look for terms relating to 2016 Jeep Cherokee, or whatever. The car industry is very bad at keeping upcoming mid-life upgrades secret.

Before you sign the contract get the VIN code of the car they’re proposing to sell you and confirm the 10th digit.