A RISE in keyless car thefts has pushed insurance claims to their highest levels since 2012, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has warned.
According to the ABI’s analysis, 16,000 insurance claims were made in the first three months of 2019. While this is a modest increase over the 14,000 claims made during the same period in 2018, the ABI says this is the highest quarterly rate since it began collecting claim data in 2012 and means UK insurers are settling one claim on average every eight minutes.
At the same time, payout costs have shot up. At £108m, the car theft payouts for the first quarter of 2019 are 22% higher than they were in the first quarter of 2018, and double what they were four years ago.
The increase in claim rates and costs coincides with an increase in the numbers of vehicles being stolen. According to the latest figures from the Home Office, car thefts in the UK have shot up by nearly 50% over the last five years, from 75,308 vehicles in 2013-14 to 111,999 during 2017-18.
While the ABI didn’t cite a single specific cause for the growing claim rates, it does suggest “the vulnerability of some cars to keyless relay theft” – where crooks steal cars using devices that copy and amplify the signal from the vehicle’s key fob – are partly responsible for the rise.
Driving first reported about the problem of keyless thefts in 2014, but cars affected at that time were mainly premium vehicles, such as Range Rovers and Audis. Since then, the technology has trickled down to more affordable models; in March last year Cleveland Police in Middlesborough said it had logged the theft of 90 keyless cars in the area over a three month period, with half of the cars being Ford Fiestas.
In recent times, the motor industry has been making inroads to curb the threat of keyless car thefts. Car makers like Audi, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have been introducing key fobs with motion sensor-based “sleep modes” to their model ranges, and the UK car research centre Thatcham Research will only give the highest-possible “Superior” security rating to vehicles that are resilient to keyless car thefts.