AKRON—Shed no tears, but it's getting tougher nowadays to be a car thief. Two new products were recently introduced that approach the enormous national problem of vehicle theft from different perspectives.
Calling car theft "America's costliest property crime," Sears, Roebuck and Co. introduced, on Dec. 1, the latest in its DieHard battery line, which the company has marketed since 1967. The "DieHard Security" is the only power unit on the market, Sears claims, that features a built-in "revolutionary vehicle anti-theft and power saver system."
A month earlier, during the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week (AAIW) trade shows in Las Vegas, Delco Remy America and Zeus, a San Diego-based manufacturer of vehicle security products, linked up to unveil "Smart Start." It is, the companies said, the industry's "first embedded in-solenoid, multi-feature control and diagnostic-capable technology for starter motor products."
Sears' new product features:
A vehicle immobilizer: While the vehicle anti-theft feature is armed, if any attempt is made to start the vehicle—whether with a key, by jump or push starting, or any other attempt to bypass the ignition system—the battery cuts off power to the vehicle. By the fourth overall attempt to start the vehicle, all power is cut, immobilizing it.
Once the system is disarmed, the vehicle will start normally. However, even when immobilized, the battery continues to supply power to low-current accessories.
Easy activation and use: According to Sears, the system's immobilizing feature is armed and disarmed via a remote control device attached to a key chain.
Rolling code technology: Billions of codes are used, changing each time the system is armed, to act as a "virtual locksmith."
Emergency override: If the unit's remote control is lost, the system can be reprogrammed on the spot with a secure code known only to the owner.
Power saver: If a vehicle's lights are left on, or any other unexpected power drain threatens the battery's starting power, Sears said the power saver feature will shut down power to all accessories to save enough power to start the vehicle.
Another "storage mode" feature—for extended periods of dormancy, such as for seasonal vehicles—allows the battery's power to be disengaged from the vehicle without having to disconnect battery cables.
Because all the security systems are incorporated into the battery, Sears said installation is the same as with a normal battery.
Manufactured by Johnson Controls Inc. of Milwaukee, the DieHard Security retails for $169.99, is covered by an eight-year warranty, with full replacement for the first three years, and is available in sizes to fit in seven of 10 cars on the road today.
At an AAIW show press conference, executives from Delco Remy America, a unit of Delco Remy International Inc. in Anderson, Ind., and Zeus announced the two companies had entered into a technology development and distribution agreement for the Smart Start product.
Delco Remy designs, makes, remanufactures and distributes electrical, powertrain/drivetrain and related components for a variety of vehicles.
Steve Kenney, CEO of Zeus, said Smart Start "is going to revolutionize the automotive security industry and the starter solenoid market.
"By embedding the vehicle security features inside the body of the starter solenoid, Smart Start will overcome the shortcomings found in existing OE and aftermarket security products."
A primary requirement for a successful vehicle security device, the companies said, is to significantly increase the time it takes for a car thief to defeat the device—and it must not be able to be disarmed from inside the vehicle.
That's where many alarms and anti-theft devices on the market fall short, Zeus claimed.
In order to defeat the Smart Start, a thief would have to change the starter solenoid motor—a task that takes a considerable amount of time—or actually tow away the vehicle. And the average car thief doesn't cruise around in a tow truck looking for prey, company officials pointed out.
The Smart Start technology built into a solenoid features re-start prevention, over cranking prevention, thermal overload protection and remote start. Passively armed, it also has anti code-grabbing circuitry to prevent a thief from detecting the unit's computerized code.
Company officials contend Smart Start is superior to current vehicle security technology, including mechanical devices, auto alarms and kill switches, OE-supplied theft deterrent systems and tracking devices.
The product will initially be targeted at the OE market—especially General Motors vehicles because "they're the easiest to go after," company executives said. Coverage will include high-risk vehicles that can be equipped either via a solenoid retrofit or a whole unit replacement.
But all major OEMs will be pursued, they added, and Smart Start also will make its way to traditional aftermarket customers and platforms and eventually heavy-duty industry applications such as construction equipment.
Delco Remy and Zeus anticipate shipping the device in the second half of 2000.