Car theft

If you've ever suffered the misfortune of having your car stolen or broken into, you'll be all too aware that car theft is a big problem in New Zealand.

In 2006 more than 36,000 vehicles were stolen, mainly by joy riders or professional car thieves who target desirable cars to modify and sell, or dismantle for parts. It's not only the owners of stolen cars that suffer. All motorists end up paying higher insurance premiums to cover the cost. Valuable Police resources also get tied up tracking down thieves.

Did you know?

  • In 2006-07 the Police resolution rate for car-related theft was just 20%.
  • Vehicle theft costs New Zealand about $110 million a year in insurance costs alone.
  • Up to 60-70% of vehicle thefts are opportunistic (joyriding and stealing to commit a crime).
  • Professional theft makes up about 30-40% of vehicle crime.

Encouragingly, car manufacturers and the government are now doing more to tackle the problem. Of special interest to motorists are two security measures that are becoming increasingly common - whole of vehicle marking (sometimes called "microdots") and vehicle immobilisers.

Whole of Vehicle Marking (WOVM) 

WOVM involves spraying tiny microdots containing an identification number throughout the vehicle. This reduces opportunities for car thieves to steal vehicles and conceal their true identity. WOVM also limits the market for stolen car parts.

Some manufacturers already apply microdots and owners of other car makes can voluntarily have the technique applied by security specialists. Legislation making WOVM mandatory in 2009 was repealed following industry concerns that the costs would be too high.

Vehicle immobilisers

Engine immobilisers make it extremely difficult to hotwire or start a car without the correct key, which contains an electronic code. Immobilisers reduce opportunistic car theft. The government is considering introducing legislation making it compulsory for immobilisers to be fitted to all new or late-model used imports before they enter the fleet.

Owners of older vehicles and cars imported before the regulations come into effect can voluntarily have immobilisers fitted by automotive electricians.

AA speaking up for motorists 

Conditional support for vehicle marking and immobilisers

The AA supports the use of whole of vehicle marking and vehicle immobilisers, which have the potential to reduce the need for many of the security devices motorists currently use.

We support compulsory application of anti-theft technologies to vehicles at import if the costs to motorists are reasonable. If the costs are low, reduced insurance premiums for motorists will result in only a minimal overall cost increase. However, if the cost to fit these security measures is too high, we prefer a targeted approach where only high-risk cars (as identified by the insurance industry) have these technologies applied.

We prefer it to remain optional for owners of vehicles that are already registered to apply microdots or install an immobiliser, as there is no need for compulsory retro-fitting.

What AA Members are saying

There is general support among AA Members for introducing compulsory immobilisers (65%) and whole of vehicle marking (73%) on new and used imports, with little opposition (17% and 7%, respectively).

However, the level of support from AA Members is cost sensitive. The survey was based on a government estimated cost of $350 for an immobiliser and $100 for microdots in a March 2005 Survey.

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