From the May 2001 issue of Entrepreneur

A car is hot-wired and stolen every 20 seconds in the United States. And when you have a whole fleet of cars parked all over town, it's not reasonable to think your employees are able to keep at an eye on them all the time.

Minivans, including the Chevrolet Astro, and full-sized vans, such as the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, are on most thieves' shopping lists. American sedans are the choice for Chicago thieves, while trucks are the favorite target in Dallas and Japanese cars are hot in Los Angeles. Nationwide, the Honda Accord remains the No. 1 car broken into.

Sound like your fleet? Luckily, you have plenty of options for security. On the market are coded security systems, steering-wheel clubs, steering-column locks, brake-pedal locks, electronic tracking devices, alarms and engine immobilizers. You can even get a driver-side flamethrower if you think that's necessary.

How secure can your fleet be? Ultimate Security Systems Corp. in Irvine, California, offers a $279 PowerLock that attaches to the starter motor and can't be circumvented by cutting or hot-wiring ignition wires. Sounds safe, but Michael Erwin of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) warns that persistent thieves can steal your cars no matter what you add.

"An engine immobilizer is a way to slow organized crime rings down and maybe [get them to] go on to the next target, but if they want it badly enough, they'll bring in a tow truck or load it onto a flatbed truck," says Erwin.

Loaded up with security and still wondering how safe your parking lot is for company cars? Here are some tips from the NICB:

Keep your parking area well lit.
Post reminders to lock car doors and windows.
Don't leave cell phones and other tempting equipment in plain view.
Don't attach alarm decals to your car windows. They only serve to tell thieves which alarm you have installed.
Have your Vehicle Identification Number professionally etched on your car windows to help in recovery and identification.
Don't forget that insurance is your only absolute protection. Check with your carrier to see if installing security devices earns you a discount.

Check out these Web sites for information on auto security systems:

Jill Amadio has reported on the automotive industry for 24 years as an editor and consultant.


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