A vehicle theft occurs every 44 seconds, says the National Insurance Crime Bureau. A set of tire and wheels is stolen every 96 seconds, says AAA. Stolen rims can sell for $2,000 on the Internet. The average wheel theft claim can cost a car owner more than $1,000 out of pocket for deductible and depreciation or pro-rate.
That may be why theft-deterrent products remain popular. They’re sold at dealerships as F&I add-ons. Dealerships also use them to protect inventory that, because of the nature of the business, is stored outside.
Tire and wheel thefts have hit dealerships and stripped hundreds of cars of their tires and wheels. These are not thefts by rowdy kids. Some recent headlines:
- Tires and rims stolen from Bowling Green Lincoln dealership
- 100-plus wheels, tires stolen from Richardson car dealer
“Wheel thefts were a big item in the 1980s, and then faded away, but as of 2004, tire and rim thefts have made a bigtime comeback,” says David Belmore, a regional director for Wheeltrak Dealer Services, which markets a wheel-marking anti-theft system.
Wheels are laser marked on the inner rim and the vehicles’ glass is also marked with the vehicle VIN and selling dealer’s information.
Marking wheels had been a problem due to the variation of materials used to manufacturer them, but Belmore says Wheeltrak has solved that issue.
The product includes tracking software, which is managed and monitored by Wheeltrak. Dealers who are clients mark their inventory not only to reduce their own on-lot wheel and tire thefts, but offer protection to vehicle purchasers through the F&I process.
Backend profit is $200 to $250, Belmore says. “It’s not a big margin product, but there’s a lot of volume.”
If a customer declines the theft-deterrent technology, the dealer is not charged and Wheeltrak doesn’t record the transaction or track the vehicle.
SkyPatrol offers ProTek, a stolen-vehicle recovery system powered by Verizon.
The GPS tracking and security device, an OBD-II plug in, can be temporarily hardwired into lot inventory and hardwired for customers who add it to their vehicle purchase.
ProTek tracks vehicle position, provides security and reports vehicle-battery status for lot-inventory maintenance.