Spate of thefts means some insurers now insisting on secure off-road parking and that drivers buy security devices
For most of us telling an insurance company that we park on the street outside our house pushes up premiums, but for owners of new Range Rovers it could make their car uninsurable. A spate of thefts means that some insurers are refusing to cover Range Rover drivers in London unless they have somewhere secure to park their car.
The models favoured by thieves are those with “keyless” ignition systems, which they have found a way to break into using a handheld device. Figures from the Metropolitan police show that between January and July 2014 almost 300 Range Rover Evoques and Range Rover Sports were stolen, along with 63 BMW X5s and Series 3 models. As a result, some insurers are making off-road parking a provision when they agree to cover these vehicles and insisting that drivers buy specialist security devices.
One Range Rover owner told the Times that an insurer had refused to cover his £100,000 Range Rover because he did not have underground parking. He said he had been turned down by AIG when he tried to buy cover for the car, which replaced one he had stolen from outside his home.
A spokesman for AIG confirmed that it was requesting extra security measures, particularly in cases where there had been a previous theft. “Given the increasing likelihood that replacement vehicles may be a target for thieves we may ask for additional security measures such as secure off road parking,” he said.
“This could be, for example, secure private garaging or the installation of mechanically movable bollards. If this is not possible then, as a last resort, we may refuse to offer insurance cover but only after exhausting every avenue.”
AIG added that the thefts were “an industry wide problem that the manufacturer needs to address urgently to protect their customers”.
Matt Warner, head of high net worth insurance at Alan & Thomas Insurance, which specialises in prestige car insurance, said: “We’re not seeing any insurers declining to cover Range Rovers but they are now requiring owners to have increased security measures in place, for example, a Category 5 tracking system, whereby the vehicle owner carries a key and fob separately.
“If the keys are stolen and used in the vehicle without the fob, the tracking system is activated and the vehicle’s whereabouts can be traced.”
Warner added: “Most insurers will also require the vehicle to be garaged or securely housed.” Warner said it was still possible for those without garages to get cover, but insurers may also ask for a steering lock to act as a visible deterrent to thieves.
Just last week he dealt with a claim from a Range Rover owner whose car was stolen from a driveway outside their second home. “It was found on the Hungarian border less than 48 hours later. It had been stolen to order and the thieves had obviously been watching the vehicle, they stole it and moved it straight away.”
A spokesman for Thatcham Research, which provides data to car insurers, said the thefts were typically targeted. “It tends to be organised criminal gangs, a lot of the time from eastern Europe. They ship them out as soon as possible and break them up into parts to sell,” he said.
The news is likely to make secure parking even more attractive to wealthy homeowners in central London. Parking spaces in some parts of the capital change already hands for more than the average UK house, with two underground lock-ups in Kensington recently marketed for £400,000.
In a statement, Jaguar Land Rover said vehicle theft through the re-programming of remote-entry keys was an on-going problem which affected the whole industry.
“Our line-up continues to meet the insurance industry requirements as tested and agreed with relevant insurance bodies. Nevertheless we are taking this issue very seriously and our engineering teams are actively working in collaboration with insurance bodies and police forces to solve this continuously evolving problem. This has already resulted in a number of prosecutions.”
The SMMT, the trade body for manufacturers, said that it was working to develop preventative measures against theft.
“Over the last two years, many vehicle manufacturers have released a series of software updates to help combat keyless vehicle theft and stay one step ahead of thieves,” it said.
“The challenge remains that the equipment being used to steal a vehicle in this way is legitimately used by workshops to carry out routine maintenance … We need better safeguards within the regulatory framework to make sure this equipment does not fall into unlawful hands and, if it does, that the law provides severe penalties to act as an effective deterrent.”
This article was written by Hilary Osborne, for theguardian.com on Monday 27th October 2014 15.50 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010