Keyless Range Rovers Make Easy Pickings for Car Thieves
Cars are getting more sophisticated every year, with a plethora of systems and devices to make them easier and safer to drive.
These can include all sorts of self-driving systems such as parking assist and, ultimately, completely autonomous cars. Safety systems now include automatic braking and avoidance steering if the driver does not react in time to a perceived obstacle. Security has also improved beyond all recognition in the past few decades. Gone are the days when the average British car could be unlocked by something as basic as a coat hanger, and alarms and immobiliser systems have become the standard.
Remote-entry keys are the latest labour-saving car entry and locking device, but they are proving to be a target for a new breed of computer-savvy thieves. The models that these thieves seem to be favouring are the upmarket Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Evoque. This may be a reflection of their high price tags and desirability, which make them easier to sell on the black market. In London alone, the police have reported that no fewer than 300 of these Range Rovers were stolen in the first six months of this year. BMW X5s and 3 Series saloons were also popular targets.
It seems that the criminals have found a way of interfering with the cars' keyless security systems, and they can gain access to the vehicles using a held-held device. The thieves are able to reprogram the electronic security systems to allow them to open the car and drive it away without setting off the car's alarm systems. It also seems that the cars are being stolen to order, with many being found making their way toward Eastern Europe. To make matters more complicated, the technology that the thieves are using to steal cars with keyless entry is the same technology that respectable dealers need to use to service the vehicles. This makes finding a solution even more difficult.
Land Rover has issued a statement saying that the keyless entry system on all of its vehicles complies fully with the insurance industry standards. That, however, does not appear to have stopped the insurance companies demanding that Range Rover owners take some extreme measures to protect their vehicles from theft. Some are insisting that owners of such cars need to keep their vehicles securely locked up when not in use. In some cases, it appears that owners who park their cars on the road at night have simply been refused motor insurance cover. Other companies have insisted on retractable bollards being used to stop the car being stolen.
Another method being suggested by car insurance companies is to use a separate key and fob. When the key is used to steal the vehicle without the fob being present, an alarm is sent to the owner. In some cases, this system is being used in conjunction with a category-five vehicle tracking system to track the car in the event of such a theft and recover the vehicle. This, however, adds a new element of complexity for the driver, who must now remember to keep his or her key and fob in separate pockets, purses or wallets.
The new wave of car thefts of these expensive and desirable vehicles is also having a knock-on effect in the capital, where the price of secure parking is soaring. In the last few weeks, two car lock-ups in Kensington have been sold for a combined £400,000 — more per lock-up than the average price of a house in the UK.
Ironically, some insurers are asking their drivers to use an old-fashioned steering lock to prevent their car being stolen when those sophisticated keyless systems are compromised. It seems that sometimes the simple old ways are indeed the best. The insurance industry is insisting that no Range Rover drivers are being refused cover, but the anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. It may be that some of the conditions that the insurers are insisting on are tantamount to denying cover.