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BBC Watchdog highlights Toyota and Lexus keyless car theft problems

  • Show this week highlighted problem with some Toyota and Lexus models
  • Criminals stole vehicles using a keyless entry hack that started in London and spread across UK
  • Manufacturer says it will retrofit a solution to affected cars at its dealers

Time 4:13 pm, March 15, 2024

The BBC has highlighted an issue with Lexus and Toyota that has seen the number of thefts of some of its cars dramatically increase.

The BBC’s Watchdog section on The One Show this Wednesday showcased a number of customers who had lost their Toyota and Lexus vehicles to a new wave of thefts.

What started as a problem in central London has spread across the country with one insurance firm telling the BBC it had seen a 513% increase in Lexus thefts since 2021.

Toyota thefts have risen 103% in the same time frame, according to the BBC report.

The programme said criminals had cracked a new way of stealing the models in ‘less than 60 seconds’. 

Viewers were told some owners had been offered ‘protection plates’ which are retro fitted to cars to protect them from criminals.

Owners of the cars have been told to contact their dealers to arrange the fitting of the plates. 

The programme did not make clear which age of vehicles were affected, but Toyota Land Cruiser and Lexus RX models were mentioned.

One owner had two Lexus cars stolen from their drive on the same night while the programme also chatted to others where criminals had sprayed security cameras with corrosive fluids so they could not be filmed stealing the cars.

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One owner told the programme that he felt his car ‘is not secure’ and the manufacturer ‘needs to do something to about it’.

While the BBC did not show how the criminals stole the vehicles in the show – which can be seen here at 1:58 – it was clear it relates to the keyless entry.

Toyota and Lexus said in a statement that it had proactively targeted owners with letters about the problem within the M25 where the problems first started.

‘Intelligence showed the area saw a concentration of vehicle crime and the protective plates have always been available to any dealer across the UK and were ordered and dispatched as requested,’ said a spokesperson.

‘In terms of widespread awareness, we are, of course, bound by GDPR and, as a result, only able to write to customers from whom we have permission to do so.’

The manufacturer said owners who are worried should contact their local dealer to see if they can benefit from the retrofit solution. 

A Toyota and Lexus spokesperson added: ‘We take the issue of vehicle theft very seriously. We are continuously developing technical solutions to make our vehicles more secure, to help reduce the risk of theft.

‘An enhanced security hardware system was introduced in October 2021 on the latest models targeted by criminals. Since which, we have seen a significant drop in thefts of those models.

‘For older models, we endeavour to create solutions that can offer enhanced protection to our customers. 

‘Following communication from Toyota and Lexus in the coming weeks, owners should contact their local dealer to arrange free of charge fitment. Customers can already speak to their local dealer about the fitment of a protective plate to block access to the vehicle’s electronics. This is a nationwide customer care offering.

‘Alongside our efforts, we urge authorities to focus on reducing the number of thefts.

‘We would also like to see action taken that leads to the end to the online sale of devices used by criminals to steal cars without using the car keys, as these devices serve no purpose other than a criminal one.’

Jaguar Land Rover has also been plagued by criminals targeting cars fitted with keyless entry and has issued similar retrofit solutions for customers. 

In November the car maker said it was spending £10m offering customers new technology on old models to help halt the thefts of their cars.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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