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Thinking out of the box can improve the box

publication date: Nov 16, 2015
author/source: Captain Pugwash


In the late 1990s there was much excitement in the media about how easy it was for vagabonds to steal cars for the purpose of riding with joy.


Manufacturers became focused on making their vehicles much more secure with the introduction of deadlocks and other deterrents. Worthy engineers would explain how months of research and development and much investment had enabled them to produce the most secure car on the market.

I am told that there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth at GM’s European technical centre when the resident car thief at What Car? (a former professional car thief rather than one of the journalists – that was one from Motor as I remember several years before) managed to gain entry into the then new Zafira in a matter of seconds even though the vehicle was fitted with GM’s latest deadlocks. Serious German engineers demanded to see how this was achieved as they did not believe it was possible because they had themselves failed to do so.

So one day in the presence of a couple of senior engineers from GM, the then What Car? editor Steve Fowler and a senior PR operative from Vauxhall the What Car? car thief gained access to the Zafira in less than 10 seconds. The German engineers watched in amazement as the thief ignored the doors with the latest deadlocks, went to the tailgate, removed the Vauxhall badge, placed a thin wire into the hole into which the badge was clipped and opened the tailgate.

Therein lay the problem – a car thief does not think like an engineer. A car thief will find ways of bypassing any secure system rather than trying to defeat it. (I use the word defeat in the physical rather than the more current software context!). Within months the holes in the Zafira tailgate were no more and glue replaced the clip.

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