Government proposal to mandate car immobilisers

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The government is proposing to make it mandatory for new and imported used cars to have immobilisers installed.   This could come into force in 18 months (of January 2005).

What vehicles would is apply to?
New cars and used cars less than 15 years old that are imported after the regime comes into force would be required to use immobilisers and "whole of vehicle marking".  The most common form of whole of vehicle marking is the use of "data dot" in which the car is sprayed with markings only visible under certain conditions.  Immobilisers would need to be fitted before vehicles could be registered. 

What will it cost?
Justice Minister, Phil Goff had originally suggested that the cost of data dot application would be approximately $100.  The Motor Industry Association considers this a "gross under-estimate" and that the cost is more like $350 to $500 per car.   The Automobile Association has said it could be higher than government estimates. Car immobilisers are estimated at $300 per car. 

The Managing Director of Mongoos Alarms, Mr Davis Harley said immobiliser prices would drop rapidly as demand increased - "competition will drive prices down probably to a retail price of $199".  Datadot Technology Managing Director David Lumsden also said once vehicle marking became compulsory prices would plummet. The current cost to have dots containing VINs made and fitted on an individual basis was $339, he said. When immobilisers were fitted at manufacture it was much cheaper - the actual cost was commercially sensitive.  "If it becomes mandatory then every car that comes into the country will need it...the cost would be less than $100," Mr Lumsden said - "I guarantee it."  In Australia after the measures were promoted prices dropped significantly and microdotting now cost about $A60. In Western Australia, where immobilisers were required before vehicles could be sold, the price had dropped to $A110.

Impact on car prices
Currently, 90 - 95% of new vehicles are fitted with an immobiliser, while only 5 - 10% of used imported vehicles have them fitted.  Clearly, this will have an impact on the cost of imported vehicles and will keep the price of new vehicles up.  Motor Industry Association CEO, Perry Kerr comments that the extra cost of these measures will have an effect on the importation of older, lower-value vehicles into New Zealand "and this can only have a beneficial effect on the age profile and safety standard of the vehicle fleet."

Importers were also likely to select cars which already had immobilisers or opt to have work done in the country of origin.

The cost of vehicle thefts
Car thefts in NZ is estimated at $110 million a year. 
In 2003/04 22,000 cehicles were stolen, accounting for 5.2% of all recorded crime.
80% of vehicle thefts are opportunitic, while the other 20% are attributtable to professional crime involving sophisticated, fraudulent re-identification of a vehicle or theft of its parts.

Intended effect of the new measures
The intent of the new requirements is to reduce vehicle theft. 

Possible reductions in insurance premiums
The Insurance Council has said the changes could lead to reduced premiums.

Unintended effect
While there may be an initial dowturn in vehicle thefts, commentators observe that there is likely to an upsurge in violent crime in the form of "car jacking" and home invasions as thieves  seek to obtain the car key to over-ride the immobilisers.

In a compelling article by Jim Peron, Executive Director of the Insitute for Liberal Values, the likelihood of increased violence is extremely high.
Citing experience in South Africa where virtually every car has an immobiliser car thefts there doubled over ten years.  He also observes that the government proposal is simply an acknowledgment of the government's failure to properly police crime.

The Government "is substituting Nanny for the police.  Instead of protecting people from criminals Goff proposes a policy to force people to change how they live so the government's failure to protect them isn't as apparent.  New Zealand has resources to enforce no smiking laws but inadequate funding to police car thefts."

"This coercive measure for car owners, in lieu of adequate policing and punishment, is an admission that government has failed to perform its primary job - protecting people from crime.  Goff should explain why car theft has become such a problem.  That responsbility belongs to government not to automobile owners."

Mr Peron offers an interesting anology regarding the imposition of responsibility and costs for crime prevention onto car owners - "Mandatory curfews for women would reduce rape, and mandatory burglar bars would reduce breakins."  Fair comment.

Possible shortage of technicians to be able to fit them
Mongoose New Zealand general manager David Harley said having enough auto electricians to do the 45 minute immobiliser installations was a "huge issue".   However, Motor Trade Association spokesman Andy Cuming said the 18-month lead-in time was enough for businesses to hire and train staff. He said New Zealand's high unemployment rate could impact on hiring.  The current number of owners wanting immobilisers fitted to their vehicles would continue, but about 500 cars a day would also need the work under the new scheme, he said.


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