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UK car thefts hit an all-time high with keyless car tech to blame

Car theft is at record levels in the UK according to data from LV insurance

Thief breaking in to car

Keyless car technology is responsible for a boom in car thefts, with 2023 shaping-up to be the worst year on record according to insurance company LV General.

Last year’s figures showed an increase of 59 per cent in thefts, and the insurer predicts numbers will be even higher by the time 2023’s figures are totted-up. Many brands have already seen peaks in theft, and the car crime rate usually doubles under the cover of darker winter nights. “If overall thefts continue at the same rate so far this year, 2023 is projected to be 28 per cent higher than 2022,” the insurance giant claims.

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LV has analysed its claims for theft of cars and says that from September 2021 to September 2023, Lexus has topped the charts with an astonishing 513 per cent rise in the numbers of claims for stolen vehicles. Toyota claims have risen 103 per cent in the same period, Hyundai claims 81 per cent and Kia 76 per cent.

According to the insurer, the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage have become some of the most targeted vehicles, making up 45 per cent of their respective manufacturer’s claims. The Lexus RX and NX account for 54 per cent and 21 per cent of the Japanese luxury firm’s theft claims, while the RAV4 accounts for 47 per cent of Toyota thefts according to the LV claim analysis.

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The surge in numbers of stolen cars is being driven by the ease with which criminals can acquire devices online that circumvent a vehicle's complex security systems. One type of device in particular has become popular, as it enables thieves to ‘plug into’ the wiring that connects a car’s headlamps - often easily accessible behind the bumper - and within seconds trick the car into thinking it has been unlocked by the owner’s remote fob.

“We’re certainly seeing an increase in car thefts and high value spare parts such as catalytic converters, laser headlights and even steering wheels that organised gangs of thieves find very lucrative. This is being fuelled by the high-tech nature and cost of these components and a general shortage of car parts because of global supply chain disruption,” says Martin Milliner, Claims Director at LV= General Insurance. 

“Some second-hand cars are highly desirable, being on average over 30% more expensive than they were two years ago and used by criminals as currency. We’re seeing all types of vehicles stolen and keyless cars remain a challenge. The technology of keyless cars continues to improve as more cars are produced but unfortunately it doesn’t take long for thieves to work out a way to steal them and advance their own tactics, such as signals to unlock cars via a feed into sensors behind headlights.”

Have you been a victim of car theft? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below...

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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