Ford Fiestas could be higher car theft risk with production ending, say experts


Ford made the shock announcement last month that it will cease production of the Fiesta – the UK’s best-selling car of all time and the most-owned motor on our roads.

The confirmation saw the value of second-hand examples being advertised online rise at the end of October as owners looked to cash-in on the news, according to market insiders.

However, there are now fresh concerns that Fiestas will become a hotter target for criminals.

The little Ford hatchback was the most-stolen car in 2021 – unsurprisingly given there are more examples on the road than any other model – but experts warn they could become increasingly targeted with the end of production ultimately sparking an increase in demand for second-hand parts.

Warning for Fiesta owners: Stolen vehicle recovery specialists say Ford’s supermini – the most-owned car on the road – could become a bigger theft risk as criminals capitalise of the rising cost of parts when production of the Fiesta ends next summer

Ford confirmed on 26 October that it will stop making the Fiesta in June 2023.

It officially ends 47 years of continuous production that has seen more than 4.8million examples bought in Britain since 1976, topping the sales charts for 12 years running between 2009 and 2020.

Ford confirmed last month that it will end 47 years of continuous production of the Fiesta that has seen more than 4.8m bought in Britain since 1976

Ford confirmed last month that it will end 47 years of continuous production of the Fiesta that has seen more than 4.8m bought in Britain since 1976

Not only is it the most purchased car of all time in the UK, it remains today the most-owned model with some 1.54million registered on the road last year, latest figures show.

But as well as being the most popular with drivers, it’s also top of the wishlist for criminals.

Most-stolen cars in 2021

1. Ford Fiesta: 3,909

2. Land Rover Range Rover: 3,754

3. Ford Focus: 1,912

4. VW Golf: 1,755

5. Mercedes-Benz C-Class: 1,474

6. BMW 3 Series: 1,464

7. Land Rover Discovery: 1,260

8. Vauxhall Corsa: 1,218

9. Vauxhall Astra: 1,096

10. Mercedes-Benz E-Class: 818

Source: DVLA records provided to LeaseLoco. Figures are for 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021 

In 2021, some 3,909 were reported stolen to the police, which is more than any other car in Britain, according to DVLA figures uncovered for This is Money back in February.

This represents 8 per cent of all 48,492 vehicles reported to police as having been pinched last year.

And stolen vehicle recovery specialist Tracker says thefts of Fiestas could become more common now that Ford is planning to stop making them. 

It has warned Fiesta owners to be ‘on their guard’ as the beloved model could become a hot target for thieves in the coming months and years.

Clive Wain, Tracker’s head of police liaison, explains: ‘It is common for any vehicle to become in high demand when supply stops, and the price of parts will slowly start to increase. 

‘The end of the Fiesta doesn’t just signal the end of one of the most popular cars in the UK, but an even greater theft risk for those cars that are currently on the road.

‘Over the last few years, we’ve already seen that a global lack of good quality used vehicles, alongside spare parts shortages, are increasing the desirability of older, lower value cars like the Fiesta. 

‘Vehicles are often stolen and stripped for their parts in chop shops or stolen to order to be shipped abroad to meet international demand.’

Fiesta values on the rise: In October 2019, the average second-hand Ford Fiesta price on the second-hand car marketplace was £7,363. Today, this price has surged 42% to £10,473

Tracker’s warning comes in the wake of Auto Trader telling us that used Fiesta prices are revving up on the news it will stop being made next year.

In October 2019, the average second-hand Ford Fiesta price on the second-hand car marketplace was £7,363.

How do criminals steal cars using relay tactic?

 

To target the latest – and usually high-end – motors, thieves are arming themselves with cheap technology that allows them to take cars without having to step foot into someone’s property to take the keys.

Keyless entry and keyless ignition means a driver only needs to have the car’s key on their body – in their pocket for instance – not only to unlock the doors but to start the engine.

While this is a convenience feature, it is also one that leaves owners susceptible to car crime. 

Usually two thieves will work together when planning to pinch a car with keyless tech. One holds a transmitter and stands next to the car while the other stands close to the house holding an amplifier.

The amplifier can boost the signal from the key inside the property and send it to the transmitter. 

The transmitter essentially becomes a ghost key and tricks the car into thinking the real key is nearby. This then opens the car and allows it to be driven away without causing any damage.

Insurers have estimated that around half of all car thefts are currently conducted in this way because criminals can do it quickly and in near silence, with gangs usually targeting vehicles in the middle of the night without raising suspicion.

In the same month in 2022, the average price surged 42 per cent to £10,473.

‘Nearly new’ Fiesta examples – those less than a year old – are also being advertised for more than brand new ones, which is due to the parts supply shortage and limited available of new vehicles.

This has sparked a rise in demand for quality used models, with owners able to make a profit on the brand new Fiesta they bought less than a year ago. 

According to Auto Trader, the average price of year-old Fiesta that is less than 12 months old has increased by £4,300 in the past six months, to £23,601.

By comparison a brand-new equivalent costs £23,196, meaning the second-hand model is £405 more expensive.

With values rising, it is another reason why criminals might increasingly target the Fiesta.

And many of them on the road today are vulnerable to the latest theft tactic being employed by organised criminal gangs to steal cars from their owners without raising alarm or making a hint of noise.

Many examples of the little Ford produced since 2008 are fitted with keyless technology.

Keyless entry and keyless start had been an optional extra or extra feature as part of higher trim levels on post-2008 models, and more recent versions have had these systems as standard.

This makes the supermini susceptible to ‘relay thefts’.

This is where criminal gangs duplicate the signal from the car’s electronic fob and steal the vehicle without needing to touch – or even see – the keys stored inside your home, and is the biggest factor for a huge rise in motor crime in the last few years.

‘Opportunistic thieves know there will be a demand for Fiesta parts and will be on the lookout for acquiring these vehicles at any chance they get,’ Mr Wain adds. 

‘We are urging Fiesta owners to ramp up their security methods to keep their cars safe, including a mix of modern and traditional security deterrents like crook locks and wheel clamps. 

‘Although stolen vehicle tracking technology will not stop a thief from stealing a car, it is the only way to significantly help police quickly close the net on thieves and return the vehicle to its rightful owner.’

47 YEARS AND 7 GENERATIONS OF FORD FIESTA IN PICTURES

Vehicle security expert tells us his top 10 tips to keep your car safe

With criminal gangs increasingly using new technology and methods to steal cars, especially those with a high value on the black market, we asked Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research – the UK’s independent automotive research centre and motor security experts – to give us his top 10 tips for owners to keep their motors secure.

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, provides his 10 top tips to keep your motor secure

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research, provides his 10 top tips to keep your motor secure

‘Although any increase in vehicle thefts will be a concern to car owners, we are still a long way off from the endemic car crime seen in the early 1990s – where upwards of 600,000 cars were stolen in a single year, with thieves mostly using equipment found in a toolbox,’ he explained.

‘Over the years car makers have added layers of security to successfully deter opportunistic thieves. Vehicle theft is now largely the preserve of sophisticated criminal gangs, using digital kit to navigate mechanical security.

‘Keyless entry systems have been problematic and can be exploited by thieves using a technique known as the “Relay Attack”. Many car makers do now offer countermeasures with new vehicles, such as motion-sensor enabled fobs. However, all new cars with keyless systems should have a solution to this long-standing vulnerability in place.

‘Drivers should go into the dealership with their eyes open to security and have a checklist of questions prepared around keyless entry, connected systems, apps, alarms and immobilisers.’ 

1. Always check the handles are locked after using a keyfob

When left unattended, make sure the vehicle is locked and windows are up. Listen for the locking noise and watch for the lights to flash or mirrors to fold. 

Physically check the vehicle is locked yourself – as criminals can sometimes block the locking signal from your key fob. The Electronic Control Unit (ECU) within can be at greater risk to manipulation when the vehicle has been left unlocked. 

Ensure (where fitted) that double locking to doors and alarm are active (refer to owner manual).

2. Keep valuables out of sight from prying eyes

‘Out of sight, out of mind’. Make sure valuables are removed from your vehicle or kept out of sight. This can include valuables such as bags, laptops, electronic equipment, documents and tools.

3. Do you have an alarm and immobiliser?

Ensure your vehicle has Thatcham Research-certified alarm and immobiliser systems fitted. Consider upgrading your vehicle security to include a certified aftermarket alarm with inclination sensor, immobiliser and tracking system. 

Some insurance policies require the fitment of a tracking device, so it’s important any associated subscriptions to monitoring services are maintained.

4. Invest in old-hat security systems as a next-level deterrent

Consider using a physical immobiliser such as steering wheel lock or gear clamp. These not only offer another layer of security but also act as a significant visual deterrent to thieves.

5. Think about where your car is kept when not in use, especially at night

When unattended, keep the vehicle somewhere secure and well-lit, preferably monitored by CCTV. Park the car in a way that makes it awkward for a thief to remove; parked facing close to your house (so that the thief will have to reverse out), or possibly blocking in by other cars. 

Store your vehicle in a garage overnight, if you have one. Lockable driveway gates also provide another physical and visual deterrent to thieves.

6. Make sure your keys are safe

In cold weather, do not leave the vehicle unattended and running with keys in the ignition. Store keys, including spares, out of sight from windows and doors. And consider where the spare key is kept and who may have access to it. 

If you have purchased your vehicle second hand with only one working key, visit an approved repair centre to get the missing key(s) deleted and to add a spare as soon as possible.

Be aware of the technology in your vehicle and your key fob’s functions. If it uses Passive Keyless Entry and Start (PKES) it may be susceptible to a theft method called the ‘Relay Attack’ and you should therefore consider storing key fobs as far away from the outer perimeter of the house as is possible. 

And check your owner’s manual to see if there is a PKES locking function that can be activated at night or when you’re not using the vehicle for long periods. 

For additional protection, consider using a signal blocking Faraday pouch for main and spare keys – test that it works by inserting your fob into the pouch, walking up to your car and seeing if the door will open. Make sure the pouch you buy is designed to store keys, not credit cards.

Many carmakers have now introduced motion-sensor enabled fobs, which go to sleep when idle and can’t fall victim to the Relay Attack. Speak to your dealership to see whether your vehicle has security enhancements available.

Always be aware that criminals may be able to clone the vehicle key at any time. Consider this when leaving with untrusted parties or services that you have not used before. 

Check that the company is a member of an accredited code of practice/professional standard such as The Motor Ombudsman or The British Parking Association’s Park Mark scheme. 

7. Make relevant checks so your motor doesn’t end up on bricks

Ensure your vehicle has locking wheel bolts, which secure the vehicle’s wheels.

8. Get yourself a dashcam that starts recording when there’s a security breach

Consider in-vehicle camera options that upload recorded data to the cloud or an app. If it only records to a memory stick, that will vanish with the car if stolen. Those that offer ‘parking mode’ can detect and record movement when parked. This offers supporting evidence for both your insurer and the Police.

9. Many modern cars now have security alert systems – but you need to link them to your smartphone

Does your vehicle offer connectivity? Does it offer theft alert notifications via a phone app? If so, ensure all theft alert notifications are active.

10. Wipe stored info from a car you’re selling 

Some vehicle apps and connected systems can provide access to the previous owner. If permissions remain active, ensure that all permissions and data linked to the previous owner are removed. 

And if you’re selling a car, make sure you wipe all stored information before handing over the keys to a new owner. Connected cars can store all kinds of personal information and still be connected to your devices – these can all be used to identify when your car or property might be vulnerable. 

Refer to the owner’s manual to remove all stored data.

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