Car theft: New technology 'makes it easier' says expert
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Data collected by Admiral earlier this year showed that steering wheel theft has dramatically increased in recent years. The firm claims the “biggest rise” in airbag crime was recorded last year in a major warning to vehicle owners.
Data from the firm has shown a massive 68 percent increase in claims last year compared to 2020.
BMW was found to be the most commonly targeted manufacturer, although the other top brands have also been massively hit.
Lorna Connelly, Head of Claims at Admiral said the rise in thefts was partly due to airbag factories being affected during the coronavirus pandemic.
They said thieves had tried to take advantage of a “supply chain issue” to make money.
She said: “You might wonder why a thief would take a steering wheel, but it’s what’s inside they’re really after.
“We understand that they’re being stolen for the airbags housed inside them.
“Airbag theft is a relatively new phenomenon, as criminals look for new ways to make money from stolen car parts.
“In the last four years, we’ve received more than 500 claims for stolen steering wheels, with the biggest rise in 2021 when there was a 68 percent increase compared with 2020.
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“The most commonly targeted cars appear to be BMWs.
“However our data shows that most popular makes, including Fords, Mercedes and Land Rovers have been hit.
“The rise in thefts has been higher during the pandemic as the factories that produce airbags have been impacted by Covid, either shutting down permanently or struggling to keep up with demand once they reopen.
“This has resulted in criminals taking advantage of the supply chain issue.
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“Once the steering wheel has been stolen, the airbag is removed and sold onto unscrupulous garages who fit them to cars for less than dealerships would charge.
“The garage might buy the stolen airbag for between £200 and £500 before charging a customer a few hundred pounds more.
“This would still be cheaper than the driver going to an authorised dealership, where it costs up to £1,000 to replace an activated or faulty airbag.
“If you’re having repair work done on your car that requires a replacement airbag, you should always have it done by authorised, reputable repairers, who only ever use approved parts sourced from specialist suppliers.”
The AA has previously warned the theft of steering wheels and airbags was just the “latest dangerous crime”.
President Edmund King even warned it would be “the most serious” one as it is similar to a “silent assassin”.
He said: “Airbag theft is in many ways the most serious as it can be like a silent assassin.
“In some cases, the driver doesn’t know about the theft until it is too late and the car has crashed without airbag deployment.”
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