This blog will expand on themes and topics first mentioned in my book, "The Automobile and American Life." I hope to comment on recent developments in the automobile industry, reviews of my readings on the history of the automobile, drafts of my new work, contributions from friends, descriptions of the museums and car shows I attend and anything else relevant to those interested in automobiles and auto history. Copyright 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 , 2016 by the author.
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Anti-Theft Deterrents and the Big GM SUVs
FROM The Detroit News:
The parking lot at Simi Valley Chevrolet north of Los Angeles, Calif., is well lit and fenced. But one night in September, thieves disconnected the lights and broke into the back windows of 16 Chevrolet Suburbans and Tahoes at the dealership.
No alarms sounded. When it was all over, dealership General Manager Steve Gaines said he was left with more than $3,000 in repairs to each SUV.
“They just unclamped the third row seat and pushed them out the back window and off they went,” Gaines said.
GM’s popular big SUVs, including the Suburban, Tahoe and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, control about three-quarters of the market, have high theft rates and are expensive to insure. Third-row seat and wheel thefts on the SUVs have become increasing problems across the country, from Texas to Detroit, as thieves take and sell parts.
To minimize the problem, the Detroit carmaker has added a suite of standard anti-theft features, and an enhanced optional security package for $395, to all its 2015 full-size utilities coming to showrooms early next year. New security features also are part of the 2015 Cadillac Escalade, also available in spring 2014.
“We’ve put a lot of technology into improving the security for our customers, everything from our glass breaking sensors in the quarter glass area to … interior movement sensors,” said Jeff Luke, GM executive chief engineer for GM’s global trucks.
Other automakers offer some anti-theft features, but GM’s Global Vehicle Security Lead, Bill Biondo, says GM’s package is the most “robust and significant theft deterrent package in the market.”
The 2015 Suburban and Tahoe will for the first time come equipped with a standard steering column lock, aimed to prevent a thief from being able to steer a vehicle out of a driveway without starting it, Biondo said. Steering column locks already come standard on the Yukon line.
A Smart Car Interior Motion Sensor
Better theft deterrents
Some changes are small, but will be big for customers such as better exterior lighting when customers approach the vehicle, enhanced theft deterrents in the navigation systems and bolted third-row seats that can’t easily be removed (second- and third-row seats will fold flat). The SUVs also have standard improvements to door locking systems, Biondo said, and for the first time will have side-milled keys that are a better deterrent to lock picking. Lock cylinders have been bolstered to make it harder to jimmy open a door.
GM also will offer a theft protection package that includes an interior motion sensor that sounds an alarm if movement is detected inside the vehicle. On GM’s current full-size SUVs, if someone breaks a window to steal a laptop, for example, the alarm doesn’t go off.
“Most alarms on 95 to 99 percent of the products in the U.S. today only sound based on the latches,” Biondo said. “You have to unlatch the door and the alarm will go off. If you break the window, the alarm will never go off.”
The new theft protection package also includes an inclination sensor that sounds an alarm if someone tries to tow the vehicle, Biondo said.
“Or, if they just wanted to jack up your car and steal your wheels and tires, it would go off also,” he said, adding the alarm sounds once the tire leaves the ground but can be disarmed by the owner for normal use or repair.
Rear glass breakage sensors that sound an alarm if broken on the rear quarter windows and lift gate window also are included in the special package. An enhanced lock cylinder and shields around the lock cylinder and lock rods to deter jimmying the lock, Biondo said.
“We talked to customers and they expressed a lot of interest in security,” he said. “And some customers perhaps based on where they live or where they frequent expressed the desire to be able to purchase additional security.”
The company hopes the new systems and technology will help lower insurance costs for owners of the SUVs as theft rates decline.
Kay Jarboe, product manager for GM’s full-size SUVs, said a GM engineer spent eight minutes trying to break into one of the new SUVs and couldn’t. She called the new SUVs “almost impossible to steal.”
Insurance premiums cut
Insurance companies typically provide Michigan drivers with discounts ranging between 15 percent and 20 percent off their comprehensive insurance coverage if the vehicles are equipped with anti-theft devices, said Lori Conarton, communications director of the Insurance Institute of Michigan.
Theft rates are just one factor that determines insurance rates. Conarton said drivers’ insurance premiums are impacted by the likelihood of a vehicle being stolen or damaged, plus the vehicle’s value at the time of a loss. She said insurers tend to look at trends ranging out three to five years such as losses from from vehicle thefts.
“If that trends down, then your rates will trend down,” she said.
And as theft rates fall, Biondo said it will provide value for customers.
On the Escalade, GM in 2010 added a standard steering column lock and theft rates on the Escalade have fallen by more than 50 percent over the past couple years, Biondo said.
IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said GM’s SUVs have been stolen frequently because there are so many of them on the roads She said adding the new technologies should reduce theft rates over time.
“There’s a lot of them out there,” she said. “There’s a big market for spare parts. I think that’s why they tend to get targeted.”
GM says some of the anti-theft features it is adding to the SUVs have been available on cars in Europe since the mid- to-late 1990s. Biondo said it’s possible anti-theft packages will be included on more GM vehicles; The company has offered an optional security package on the Cadillac ATS since 2013 and added them for the 2014 Cadillac CTS and 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray models.