Thief In Hooded Jacket And Balaclava Opening Car’s Door With Crowbar
MUMBAI: Sports utility vehicles (SUVs), which bucked the trend with a rise in sales in August, may have cheered automakers amid the overall collapse in dispatches but they’ve been the cause of grief for insurance companies. Thieves love the Hyundai Creta, the Maruti Suzuki Brezza, the Mahindra Scorpio and others of a similar disposition.
Insurance companies have reported the highest claims for such vehicles with thefts of SUVs rising 15-20% in FY19 from the previous year to 10,000. In India, out of 100 vehicles insured, claims are filed for 35-40. Generally, less than 2% of insured cars are stolen. Claim payouts for motor insurance add up to approximately Rs 35,000 crore with about Rs 1,000 crore accounted for by stolen vehicles every year, executives said. One large insurance company said the Brezza and the Creta seemed to be the preferred choices, with at least 2,000 claims reported for them. Bestselling SUVs include the Hyundai Venue, the Brezza, the Creta and the Mahindra Bolero. The recently launched MG Hector and Kia Seltos are also proving popular. The SUV segment grew 6% from the preceding month. Thieves seem to be adept at catching up with car protection technology. “This is a classic case of catch me if you can,” said the head of of a large motor insurance company. “With each new model and technology, new vendors keep coming up with better immobilizers and thieves keep cracking it.” Keyless entry seems to be a soft spot. “Thefts of keyless vehicles have gone up by 20%. SUVs and cars with good resale value get stolen the most,” said Vijay Kumar, head of Digit Insurance. “Mostly, diesel vehicles have good resale value.” Automatic variants are also being targeted. Before FY17, thieves preyed on models with plain keys and insurers were wary about vehicles without immobilizers. Once keyless entry was adopted widely, thieves have come to use a mix of high and low tech — breaking the window and overwriting the data using blackmarket devices To be sure, auto thefts have been falling in the past five-seven years, but there have been cyclical blips. Also, the geographical spread is uneven — the frequency of thefts is higher in the north, less so in the west and south. “It’s more in the NCR (National Capital Region) and northeast regions and these cars are sold in UP, the northeast and J&K,” said a person with knowledge of the matter. Thieves target new models that gain in popularity and compact SUVs have been the flavor of the season for some time as these can be used for commercial and private use. Though most have immobilizers, thieves have devices that can break the code Car companies such as Hyundai, Maruti Suzuki and Mahindra & Mahindra hold regular reviews with insurance companies, police officials, dealer partners to tackle organised car thieving. Hyundai’s recently launched Venue seems to have held its own. It has inbuilt tracking along with notification and immobilisation systems as well as a geofencing feature. The latter sounds an alarm through a notification alert when the car crosses a set perimeter. Hyundai has sold a little over 18,000 Venues and no theft cases have been reported yet. Many dealerships install antitheft devices as an after-purchase fitment, with the cost ranging from Rs 900 to Rs 5,000. “Theft ratios are low at these dealerships,” said a senior insurance company official. “If all dealers come together and decide to promote anti-theft devices, the problem can be addressed to some extent.” Insurance companies are working with automobile trader associations, transport authorities and police departments to suggest mechanisms to deal with such thefts. Car manufacturers, through dealerships, have tightened the process of issuing duplicate keys. Customers are instead asked to change all the locks — the cost varies across models. Electronic tracers are being installed on some cars. Thieves target electric vehicles (EVs) too. “In EVs, the battery is an important component. In Delhi, e-rickshaw battery thefts have been high,” said Kumar of Digit Insurance. “Battery is the expensive part in EVs, so even if the cost goes down, premium may not,” said Sanjay Datta, head of underwriting at ICICI LombardNSE General Insurance. “The cost of replacing the battery is high and the chances of battery theft are high too.” Once telematics is embedded in vehicles, tracking will become seamless and help bring down thefts, said experts.