Should manufacturers do more to stop vehicle theft? Updated rules could

Samantha Sannella loves Jeeps — she’s had four in the last eight years — and she knows that thieves covet them, too. In fact, one Jeep disappeared from in front of her Toronto home.

“My previous jeep — which I love, love, loved — was stolen the first week I bought it,” said Sannella, who belongs to a number of Facebook groups for Jeep owners.

“I mean, every day, somebody posts that they’ve had their Jeep stolen.”

Still, when she bought a new Jeep Rubicon, she was surprised her insurance company required her to install an anti-theft device at her own cost or pay a $500 surcharge.

“If so many cars are being stolen, really the manufacturers should be putting them in,” she said.

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According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, in 2022, claims paid out for vehicle thefts exceeded $1.2 billion for the first time.

As thefts rise exponentially, owners and insurers say manufacturers should address known vulnerabilities in vehicle technology, which have been exploited by thieves.

Key stakeholders, manufacturers, insurers, law enforcement and all levels of government will be looking for solutions at a national summit on combating auto theft in Ottawa on Feb. 8. 

A man in a safety vest watches as a forklift unloads a stolen car from a shipping container.
Bryan Gast, vice-president of investigative services at Équité Association, looks on as vehicles seized at the port of Malta and returned to Canada are offloaded in Montreal. (Michael Drapack/CBC)

How vehicles get hacked

Bryan Gast, vice president of the investigative services division at Équité Association, which investigates vehicle thefts and frauds on behalf of member insurance companies, said standards must be updated.

He said thieves are hacking the Controller Area Network (CAN bus) of vehicles, which enables communication between various electrical components.

“So CAN bus attacks, reprogramming thefts, relay attacks, all of those things aren’t included in the current standard. So really, it’s building a vehicle and designing a vehicle with the technology to prevent theft is really the key,” Gast said.

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For example, before 2007, Transport Canada did not require vehicles to have engine immobilizers, Gast explained. But when vehicles with keyless and remote start technologies were introduced, safety standards recommended by UL Standards & Engagement (ULSE) were made mandatory.

WATCH | Pressure is on for automakers to improve anti-theft measures:

Automakers pressured to make vehicles harder to steal

At a summit on combating auto theft next week, automakers are expected to face more pressure to modernize and install mandatory anti-theft devices.

Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 114 requires that all new vehicles manufactured or imported for sale in Canada with a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,536 kilograms or less…

Read More: Should manufacturers do more to stop vehicle theft? Updated rules could

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