By Tim Lewis, Researcher - Advanced Research Division, SBD
Low security fitment might be a factor behind rising cost of theft to insurers in the USA, according to SBD.
Overall theft rates in the USA have been falling since 2004, but over the same period the average insurance payments per theft claim have been increasing. Worse still, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), the vehicles with the highest theft rates are not seeing their theft rates decline despite their early efforts to tackle the problem.
HLDI Theft Claim Data for 2008-2010(Source:HLDI, 2011)
Thieves will naturally target vehicles with a high customer demand to make their profit, but a lack of a steering or transmission lock on many vehicles in the USA enables thieves to simply push or tow them away. Once transported elsewhere, the criminals can overcome the immobiliser or strip the parts of the vehicle for sale on the black market.
As we reported earlier this year, the Cadillac Escalade remains the most stolen car on U.S roads. The “push and steal” theft method used to steal many Escalade’s has been big news, one former GM employee living in the eastside of Detroit had her Escalade stolen seven times, using this method. GM have made attempts to improve the security of the popular SUV but the latest study from HLDI shows that the Escalade's is still highly targeted and the security upgrades may not have worked. As a result 2012 will see four further security improvements implemented by GM:
- A new and more robust steering column lock system that GM claim “makes it nearly impossible to maneuver the Escalade onto a flatbed tow vehicle or push it away”
- An inclination sensor that sets off an alarm when the system senses a change of the angle of the vehicle, such as when towing or jacking up the vehicle
- A shock sensor intended to reduce theft of contents or “push and steal” by sounding the alarm when the vehicle is impacted or if any window glass is broken
- A new wheel lock system to help prevent the theft of Escalade’s wheels and tyres
It remains to be seen if this latest increase in security will help bring thefts of the Escalade down, but with the number of different techniques being utilized by modern day thieves to overcome vehicle security systems, even this might not be enough to deter thieves:
- The “Push and steal” method is widespread, and just like with the Cadillac Escalade, other GM vehicles such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and the GMC Yukon are known to be targeted using the same attack method. In fact any vehicle that doesn’t have a steering lock could be a target for thieves
- Carjacking is another popular theft method, either violently where the assailant is armed with a firearm or knife or where they use various non-violent distraction techniques
- Police in Birmingham, Alabama arrested several members from a gang who were stealing tailgates from pick-up trucks at the beginning of the year. The tailgates could be removed in less a minute and sold on to scrap-yards for $200-300 and were sold back to unsuspecting customers for $400
- In August earlier this year, 9 individuals were charged with hiring cars and SUV’s from various rental agencies in Sterling Heights (Michigan), driving them over the border to Canada where they were shipped to Iraq
SBD believe that the security on many new vehicles in the USA at the present time is not good enough and with legislation (parts marking) primarily focused on recovery and prosecution after a theft the country could see reports of rising theft becoming more commonplace in the near future.
The USA has benefited from the adoption of mandatory electronic immobilisers in Canada because of the shared stock situation. This should signal an increase in the level of security on vehicles in the USA except for two factors:
- An official interpretation of the countries legislative requirements deems a steering or transmission lock is not required if an electronic engine immobiliser is fitted. This has led to some manufacturers deleting these features
- Many manufacturers are also taking the opportunity to apply for exemption from the countries parts marking legislation which is allowed if a vehicle is fitted with an electronic engine immobiliser
Whilst the interpretation of US legislation remains the same, SBD anticipate “push and steal” thefts becoming more regular occurrences as steering lock fitment declines. With less parts marking in place, if a vehicle is stolen it then becomes much harder for the Police to trace its origins especially where vehicles are being broken for parts.
Insurance claims for theft are rising and theft levels are reversing in some regions – the warning signs say that current security levels are not working. SBD therefore recommend that industry stakeholders should follow Cadillac’s lead of driving up security fitment above the minimum legislative levels in the near future – before theft starts to rise.
SBD’s security experts can advise you on specific designs, system concepts, and existing theft methods and high tech threats. Find out more about our preventative services by calling our Secure Car Team on +44 1908 305 105 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org