Luxury car owners told to use steering locks, The Times 21st July 2014

You might have thought they went out with manual chokes, but owners of top-of-the-range cars are being told by police to by old-fashioned steering locks to stop thieves outwitting their sophisticated alarms.


Car thieves are routinely driving away in high-value vehicles after mastering a technique to foil their computerised security systems.


The Kensington and Chelsea neighbourhood policing teams covering the wealth west London neighbourhoods recently wrote to owners: “Car thieves currently operate in this area and your vehicle may be at heightened risk of being stolen.  Expensive vehicles, including Range Rovers, Land Rovers and BMW X series and X6 series, in particular have been targeted.


“Having gained access, any vehicle security systems have been bypassed and the vehicles in most case driven away.  It is recommended therefore that you consider additional means of securing your vehicle such as through the use of a simple steering wheel or gear stick lock, which are effective in preventing theft of your vehicle.


Simon Gregg, who owns two Range Rovers and is owner of Bramley, a quality car dealership, highlighted the advice on his Twitter account after receiving the letter.  He said: “It has got to the point now that people are going to Halfords and buying a steering lock because it will act as a better deterrent.


“Land Rover said it engineering department was working on the problem but how am I supposed to protect the car they sold me?  Cars without keys are particularly venerable.  One person I have spoken to say 26 Range Rovers have been stolen in recent months from central London.  I know a BMW X5 was stolen on my road recently and a friend had their Land Rover Discovery stolen.”


Thieves operating in wealthy areas are thought to have begun smashing non-alarmed car windows and connecting a device to a vehicles diagnostic system.  By reprogramming a blank key, it allows them to drive away without any alarms sounding.   The process can take less than a minute.  Almost half the cars stolen in London are estimated to use keyless technology.


Land Rover said yesterday that its current line-up “continues to meet the insurance industry requirements as tested and agreed with relevant insurance bodies.  Nevertheless, the company has taken this issue very seriously and our engineering teams have been working in collaboration with insurance bodies and police forces.


“It is however important to remember that this is an industry-wide issue. Access to the vehicle involves new technology being employed by organised crime to deceive customers into allowing their keys to be cloned.  We will continue to evolve the technology in our vehicles as organised crime develops.”


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