Some of the UK’s newest and most popular cars are at risk of being stolen in seconds by exploiting weaknesses in keyless entry systems.
The systems let drivers open and start their cars without taking their key out of their pocket.
What Car? magazine tested seven different car models fitted with keyless entry and start systems.
A DS 3 Crossback and Audi TT RS were taken in 10 seconds, and a Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 180 HSE in 30.
What Car? security experts performed the tests using the same specialist technology operated by thieves.
They measured the time it took to get into the cars and drive them away.
Car theft rates in England and Wales have reached an eight-year high. In 2018, more than 106,000 vehicles were stolen.
And motor theft insurance claim payouts hit their highest level in seven years at the start of 2019.
The Association of British Insurers said claims for January to March were higher than for any quarter since 2012.
How did the cars perform?
- DS 3 Crossback Puretech 155 Ultra Prestige – Stolen in 10 seconds
- Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 180 HSE (2018 model) – Stolen in 30 seconds
- Land Rover Discovery SD6 306 HSE – Researchers gained entry to the car within 20 seconds but could not drive it away
- BMW X3 xDrive20i M Sport (2018 model) – Stolen in 60 seconds but only when “smart key” was active
- Audi TT RS Roadster – Stolen in 10 seconds but only when smart key was active
- Ford Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost 140 ST-Line X – Stolen in 60 seconds but only when smart key was active
- Mercedes A-Class A220 AMG Line – Stolen in 50 seconds but only when smart key was active.
Source: What Car? magazine
It said a rise in keyless car crime was partly to blame, but did not have figures on what proportion of claims were for keyless vehicles.
Audi’s parent company, the VW Group, said it collaborated with police and insurers as part of its “continual” work to improve security measures.
The PSA Group – the parent company of DS – told What Car? it had a team dedicated to treating potential security weaknesses and worked closely with police to “analyse theft methods”.
It also said dealers could deactivate the keyless entry systems on the latest cars at the owner’s request.
Land Rover did not give a comment to What Car? regarding the tests.
How keyless theft works
Thieves, normally working in pairs, will target a car parked outside a house.
One criminal will hold a device close to the car that boosts the signal meant for the key, while the other thief will stand close to the house with another device that relays that signal to the key, fooling the system.
Once the cars have been stolen, they will be stripped for parts, police say.
Car manufacturers have begun introducing new technologies to prevent keyless theft, such as motion detection technology.
What Car? was unable to break into cars that had motion detection installed as a safety measure, however the technology is not available across the car market.