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VW dominates security awards

Safe as houses: The Volkswagen Polo was among the winners in the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council's security awards.

Local car-makers need to “lift their game” on security as Euros top national awards

Volkswagen logo19 Apr 2012

EUROPEAN models have dominated the annual car security awards handed down by the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council, with Australian manufacturers urged to “lift their game”.

In announcing its ‘Secure by Design’ awards this week, the influential independent anti-theft organisation was unprepared to nominate a winner in the people-mover and commercial vehicle categories, citing a significant lack of security features compared to the main passenger-car segments.

Volkswagen received awards in four of the six available categories with its Polo (small-car class), Golf (small-medium), Tiguan (SUV) and Passat (medium), with the latter deemed a joint winner with fellow VW Group member Audi and its A4.

Notably, VW also scored highest in the commercial vehicle class with its Amarok utility (with 62 points out of 100) and the people-mover category with its Multivan and Caddy Life models (both 54 points), but the relatively low point scores were deemed unworthy of recognition.

Jaguar took out the large-car category with its XF luxury sedan, while the coupe/convertible class was shared between the BMW 1 and 3 Series, Mini Cooper and Audi A3, A5 and TT.

Category winners were assessed by engineers at NRMA Insurance’s research centre in Sydney across three main areas: entry systems (including door and ignition locks, alarms, rear seat/boot access and glazing) engine immobiliser (with advanced systems rating more highly) and vehicle identification, such as body stamping, security labelling and microdot marking.

More than 70 current model vehicles were rated against a “comprehensive scoring matrix” to determine the class winners.

 center imageFrom top: Volkswagen Golf, Tiguan, Passat and Jaguar XF.

NMVTRC chairman David Morgan singled out Australian manufacturers Ford, Holden and Toyota as needing to “lift their game in relation to vehicle identification technology”, which helps to restrict the illegal trade of stolen parts and vehicle ‘rebirthing’ (where the car’s identity is changed for sale to unsuspecting customers).

“Improved vehicle identification is essential to combating profit-motivated thieves who launder stolen vehicles by manipulating the vehicle’s identifiers, or break the vehicle down to separated parts for sale on the black market,” he said.

In the large-car class, the XF topped the table with 81.5 points, slightly ahead of the Audi A6 on 78 points and the BMW 5 Series on 74.

None of the Australian-built models assessed – in any model class – scored points in the vehicle identification section, but the Holden Commodore was rated ahead of its local large-car rivals on 51.5 points overall, primarily due to a superior engine immobiliser.

Ford’s Falcon managed only 22 points, while Toyota’s Aurion was equal-last on the table with the Thai-built Honda Accord, both on 20 points.

However, the redesigned Aurion launched this week should improve on its rating, judging by the related Camry’s 53 points in the medium-car segment (compared to 20 for the previous Camry Hybrid).

Other locally built models also failed to impress, with the Holden Cruze well down in the small-medium class with just 25 points, and the Ford Territory scoring only 37.5 points among the SUVs.

In the commercial sector, the Holden ute scored 52.5 points while the Falcon ute managed only 20.

Motoring authorities have argued the case over many years for better identification of mainstream Australian-built models, urging them to consider anti-theft measures such as microdot vehicle marking and tamper-proof compliance labels when surveys have shown them lagging in this area.

There have been calls to make the relatively inexpensive microdots compulsory on all new vehicles, but governments and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) have to date left it up to individual car-makers.

NRMA Insurance head of research Robert McDonald said this week: “There is still more that can be done in tackling the issue of professional car theft in Australia by updating vehicle identification technology with the adoption of high-security self-voiding labels, in place of current aluminium compliance plates and low security labels.”

Mr Morgan said at the awards presentation that “the level of secure design applied in the manufacturing process is the single most important factor in determining the theft rate of a particular model”.

“While there are some luxury vehicles amongst the winners, the inclusion of the many affordable cars, with the Polo starting at around $20,000, clearly demonstrates that good security is within reach of everyday motorists and that other manufacturers should be aspiring to matching these levels of design,” he said.

On the poor performance of models in the people-mover and commercial classes, he said: “The gap in security features between the big sellers in those classes, compared to the winners of the passenger car classes, was too great.”

Volkswagen Group Australia managing director Anke Koeckler said the awards “further demonstrate our commitment to offer cars with class-leading security as well as unparalleled drivability, at a price to suite every motorist”.

The Polo 77TSI model won the small-car award with 74 points out of 100, just ahead of two other VW Group cousins, the Skoda Fabia and Audi A1 on 72.

In the small-medium segment, the Golf 90TSI Trendline scored 74 points to place ahead of the BMW 1 Series (72) and yet another VW, the Jetta (64).

The Passat and A4 (both on 78 points) placed on top of the medium-car table ahead of the Subaru Liberty (75.5) and BMW 3 Series (74).

The Tiguan scored 78 points to lead the SUV class from the BMW X3 (72) and the larger VW Touareg V6 TDI (70).

Backed by the federal and all state governments, and the insurance industry, the NMVTRC says a car is stolen every 11 minutes in Australia and that 127 cars are stolen every day, making up more than 46,300 thefts a year.

It says the majority of cars stolen are taken for short-term purposes including joyriding, transport, to commit another crime or vandalism.

Three out of every four of these short-term car thefts in Australia are committed by young people aged between 10 and 17.

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