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Spike in theft of Toyota Hilux, Fortuners

By highly sophisticated criminal cartels.

JOHANNESBURG – High levels of theft of Toyota Hilux and Fortuners seem to have resurfaced recently, with cartel activity suspected for the spike in claims. 

Ian Georgeson, CEO of Cross Country Insurance Consultants, says while theft of these classes of vehicles dates back years, there has been a marked increase in recent months.

“Criminals are one step ahead all the time. The people who do this are always part of a syndicate, these vehicles are not stolen for transport,” an independent vehicle recovery specialist, who preferred to remain anonymous, tells Moneyweb.

That parts such as engines may be interchangeable between different Toyota models and the vehicles are known for being indestructible makes these cars popular across Africa.

Common destinations north of our borders include Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, while older cars may be stripped domestically and the parts sold off, the recovery specialist says. “Manufacturers are doing quite a lot to prevent vehicles from being stolen. Toyota was one of the first to implement a new microdot system on vehicles.”

According to Toyota, perceptions of high theft of these vehicles dates back to April 2010 and are fuelled by the “high number of sales every month over many years of these two models”.

While both models have always complied to international and domestic vehicle security standards, Toyota says it has since developed a new anti-theft solution and equipped its local dealer network to fit this to the Hilux and Fortuner models produced prior to September 2010.

“This fitment will be done at the cost of the owner. As of September 2010, various levels of anti-theft systems have been fitted in production at Toyota’s manufacturing plant in Durban. The company is confident that the latest anti-theft system will plug any gaps still remaining,” Toyota tells Moneyweb.

Range of risk factors to consider

Vehicle tracking company, Tracker and the country’s largest short-term insurer, Santam say they have not noticed a marked increase in the theft of Toyota Hilux and Fortuner vehicles in recent months. “That said, Tracker’s customer base is not necessarily representative of the SA car park,” commented Ron Knott-Craig, operations director at Tracker.

Santam identifies shifts in theft trends for specific vehicles.

“This often relates to factors such as upgraded security devices installed; sales volumes; discontinuation of manufacture of specific vehicles, or specific vehicles no longer being ‘attractive’. These trends influence the average value of vehicles being stolen rather than frequency of theft,” comments Santam spokesperson, Donald Kau.

Santam does charge higher risk premiums to insure vehicles where theft is higher, or it insists that tracking devices be installed in these vehicles, Kau says.

“Before buying a vehicle, confirm the cost of insurance and theft conditions with your insurer,” he advises.

Of course insurers consider a range of factors when determining your premium, risk of theft being only one. These include age, gender, geographic location, what the vehicle will be used for, where it will be parked at night and previous claims experience.

None of the insurers contacted believe the Toyota Hilux or Fortuner will become uninsurable as a result of theft.

Georgeson, for instance, says theft and hijacking is not a substantial rating factor since the greatest portion of loss on Cross Country’s books comes from accidents.

In fact, a Towers Watson study, Motor Pricing in the South African Market, reveals that total loss elements, such as theft and hijacking, represent on average around 15% of your insurance premium. Eighty-five per cent is accounted for by partial loss, windscreen and third party property damage – all generally a function of accidents.

Meanwhile, Hollard has denied allegations that it is now insisting that two tracking devices be installed in Toyotas. “Where Hollard has entered into binder relationships with brokers, or where an underwriting manager sets underwriting rules, there may, in certain instances be a requirement for multiple devices to be installed,” says Hollard Insurance general manager, Anton Botha.

Underwriting managers are generally niche insurance businesses that are underwritten by a larger insurance company whose pen they hold (i.e. who they can write risks on behalf of). For instance, Hollard’s personal lines underwriting managers include high-net-worth motor insurer, Execuline and Zenith, also a HNW insurer.

Insurers advise that clients double-check whether their vehicle has been jammed when locking and leaving it parked, as well as ensuring security systems are working and exercising caution when parking in public areas.

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