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Minister calls for DataDots

Dotty over DataDots: Politicians are calling for the local standardisation of micro-dot vehicle marking technology. DIGITAL IMAGE: Chris Harris.

Aussie car-makers resist calls for compulsory microdot vehicle marking

General News logo29 Jun 2005

AUSTRALIA’S ‘big four’ car manufacturers have resisted a plea by NSW Police Minister Carl Scully for micro-dot vehicle marking technology to become compulsory on all new cars.

Mr Scully this week called for "whole of vehicle marking" techniques, such as DataDotDNA, to become mandatory for all new vehicles sold in Australia, in an effort to curb vehicle theft and professional re-birthing rackets.

The minister, who believes all car-makers should employ such technology, said he would push for vehicle-marking legislation to be implemented nationally at the next meeting of Australian police ministers in June.

But when contacted by GoAuto this week, all of Australia’s car-makers said the plan was logistically and economically unpractical.

"We would obviously support anything that reduces car theft, but with one important rider – the customer has to be willing to pay," said Holden spokesman Jason Laird.

"If car-makers introduced every new technology available into every new model you’d end up with cars that nobody could afford." Mr Laird argued the proposal would have an impact on new-vehicle pricing, particularly at the lower end of the market.

"There are more than 50 car brands in Australia now and everything from the cheapest Asian imports to the most expensive European marques would have to be committed," he said.

"Introducing something into a $13,000 car for no immediate benefit would inevitably hurt its value and impact on sales, as many would consider a second-hand car instead.

"The theory is good, but the practicality has to be thought through. We have to think about the consequences to car-buyers in a price-sensitive market." Representatives from Ford, Mitsubishi and market-leader Toyota echoed Mr Laird’s comments.

"We’ve already got a pretty good record with safety and security thanks to Falcon’s rolling-code keyless entry system," said Ford’s Andrew Ellis, who added that Falcon theft had plummeted since the AU’s Smartshield remote central locking technology was introduced in 1998.

"Of the top 20 makes of vehicles most stolen in Victoria between June 2003 and May 2004, AU and BA Falcons do not rate a mention.

"Of the top 20 late model (built after January 1998) vehicles stolen in Victoria in the same period, the AU recorded 82 thefts and the BA 46 – and 36 of those (78 per cent) were recovered," he said.

Mr Ellis said all Ford Performance Vehicles models were equipped with microdot technology because criminals often targeted high-performance cars.

80 center imageHolden Special Vehicles also equips its vehicles with microdot marking, as does Subaru, Porsche, Audi, BMW and Mini.

Mitsubishi equipped its discontinued Ralliart Magna with the technology, and will continue to spray the VIN-containing ‘DNA’ onto undisclosed components of its flagship Lancer, which arrives here in Evo IX guise later this year.

Mitsubishi spokesman Kevin Taylor told GoAuto the company had investigated microdot technology for some of its prestige models, including the limited-edition Platinum Pajero, but that logistic difficulties prevented it being made available on volume-selling vehicles.

Mr Taylor would not confirm whether Mitsubishi’s forthcoming Magna replacement would become the first mainstream Australian-built model to feature microdot technology when launched in October.

At Toyota Australia, executive director of sales and marketing, David Buttner, said discussions about microdot technology were something the company would generally embrace but that it was a matter to be dealt with by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

"We’d have that discussion through the FCAI rather than individual companies because there is a lot involved in it," he said.

Mr Buttner said there were several issues, including cost, to be canvassed regarding any broad-ranging adoption of the technology.

"There are always upsides and downsides to any decision," he said.

Toyota currently does not use microdots on any of its vehicles.

According to DataDot Technology Limited, a car is stolen every eight minutes in Australia, which has the fifth highest per-capita automotive theft rate of similar western nations, costing the community an estimated $980 million each year.

New Zealand will next year bring into effect national regulations making microdot marking compulsory on newly imported cars and light commercial vehicles.

Detective Superintendent Ken McKay of the NSW Police said that in February microdot technology helped police break-up a Sydney theft racket involving valuables and wheels, most of which were stolen from microdot-branded Subaru vehicles.

"Because of the microdotting on each of the wheels, we were able to lay charges, and then the stolen goods were able to be returned," said Supt McKay.

"Of the 140 wheels that were recovered, we returned 100 to their owners. The 40 that weren’t returned didn’t have microdots.

"If we’d had whole-of-vehicle marking systems 10 years ago, our job would be a lot easier," he said.

National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) executive director Ray Carroll said microdot-equipped vehicle brands had experienced dramatic reductions in the number of stolen cars.

"In the two-and-a-half years Subaru have been applying DataDotDNA to some models, there has been a 93 per cent reduction in the rate of those models being stolen and unrecovered," Mr Carroll said.

"Similarly, HSV and BMW have been using the technology for over four years, with a 64 per cent and 75 per cent reduction respectively." This week’s announcement by Mr Scully followed last week’s release by the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council of the latest motor vehicle theft figures in Victoria.

Holden Commodores built between 1979 and 1991 were again found to be the number one target for opportunistic car thieves in Victoria, while Commodores built between 1998 and 2002 were named as the vehicles most commonly targeted by professional car thieves nationally.

Mr Scully also outlined plans this week to increase the maximum jail sentence to 14 years for people found to associated with professional re-birthing chains, such as panel-beaters and spray-painters.


AUSTRALIA’S MOST WANTED THE TOP VEHICLE THEFT TARGETS

Professional Targets, Australia
Make/Model Years Missing Value
Holden Commodore 1998-2002 410 $4.6m
Ford Falcon 1998-2002 150 $1.7m
Toyota LandCruiser 1998-2002 140 $3.8m
Toyota HiLux 1998-2002 80 $1.3m
Mitsubishi Lancer 1998-2002 70 $1.1m
Opportunistic Targets, Victoria
Make/Model Years Stolen
Holden Commodore 1979-1991 3200
Ford Falcon 1983-1990 1600
Ford Laser 1982-1990 730
Ford Telstar 1983-1990 380
Mazda 626 1991 280
Source: National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council, June 2005.

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