Feature – Focus on Cars: Car theft costs

Car vandalism, break-ins and theft blight the UK, but Peter White questions the readiness of company car drivers to react to car crime

If you read nothing else, read this ….

  • Ensure drivers close and lock all car doors, close windows and hide any valuable possessions in the boot.
  • Employers would do well to provide a 24-hour telephone hotline that company car drivers can call to report incidents.
  • The Audi A8, CitroÎn C4 and Peugeot 407 are considered to be the most secure cars by regulator Thatcham.

Article in full

If the Hollywood flick Gone in 60 seconds is anything to go by, then car theft is a sexy business with Angelina Jolie and Nicholas Cage carelessly cavorting in classic motors. However, in reality, there’s nothing beautiful about having your company car broken into or stolen on a grim out-of-town business estate.

The RAC’s 2005 Report on motoring suggests that almost a quarter of all motorists in UK towns and cities suffer vandalism to their car at least once a year. And 40% of all drivers have had their car stolen or broken into at some point.

Cars are increasingly being fitted with new-fangled security measures, from alarms to immobilisers. However, thieves are also becoming more adept at getting what they want. Tennis balls can be used to pop open central locking, keycutters can duplicate keys without ever seeing an original and front bumpers can be easily knocked to cause the doors to unlock.

Sean Bingham, director of new business at Bank of Scotland Vehicle Finance, explains: "You’re out for a night on the town and your car gets nicked, then you’re pretty much stuck. It’s not a question of what happens to a company car driver, generally speaking, they’re as stranded as the rest of us."

So what can company car drivers do to protect themselves against such instances, and if a car is broken into or stolen, what processes can they follow?

First off, when they hand over car documentation, fleet bosses often give employees the name and contact details of the fleet management provider or breakdown service to use if a car is stolen or broken into. And many organisations ensure that they have a 24-hour telephone hotline so any report can be filed immediately.

Thatcham, the government-run motor insurance repair research centre, compiles an annual list of safety features on all makes and models of vehicles. Its New vehicle security ratings highlights that the most secure cars are the Audi A8, CitroÎn C4 and the Peugeot 407, while the Hyundai Elentra and Suzuki Alto are considered the easiest cars to break into.

Dean Woodward, consultancy and risk manager at DaimlerChrysler Fleet Management Services, says that it is in the manufacturer’s interest to ensure that security in their cars is tight so as not to be known as an easy target for car thieves.

Nowadays, cars are more likely to be broken into than stolen. As a result, employers should warn drivers not to keep valuables in their cars, especially laptops, briefcases and other gadgets. Organisations in areas with particularly high crime rates will be especially vocal in promoting these policies, for both the safety and convenience of drivers and the effect on an organisation’s insurance premiums.

Many company car insurance policies will only cover a certain amount of personal belongings, so often a driver will have to use their own household contents insurance to claim back such items, which can push up personal premiums.

The Home Office, which claims that over 80% of people are emotionally affected when their vehicle is broken into or stolen, is currently promoting its Secure Your Motor Campaign to encourage all drivers to be careful. Making sure all doors are locked and windows rolled up, especially in the summer, are obvious tips but are not always followed. So while the company car driver will never be offered an armoured tank, they should consider how to make the car they do choose as safe as one.