The Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre (MIRRAC) at Thatcham will attack-test and analyse new cars before awarding them scores from one to five stars for their 'theft of' and 'theft from' protection.
Fleets will now feel pressure to use the security ratings when they formulate company car choice lists, in the same way they use the European New Car Assessment Programme crash tests to select 'safer' company cars. Detective Chief Inspector David Ryan, of the Metropolitan Police's Stolen Vehicle Squad, said the ratings scheme 'was one of the most important tools in the kit of fleet purchasers'.
MIRRC has already tested 51 models and will examine hundreds more as it creates a comprehensive league table of new car vehicle security. Ken Roberts, director of research at MIRRC, said: 'It is the first time that the public has been able to gauge a vehicle's security performance and if fleet operators use the system then it will reduce vehicle thefts and break-ins.'
With today's company cars becoming tomorrow's used cars, fleets can play an instrumental role in reducing car crime and helping the Government meet its target of a 30% reduction in car crime by 2003.
The scheme follows two years of research led by the Vehicle Crime Reduction Action Team, chaired by Ford fleet director Mike Wear, and was developed by the Association of British Insurers, MIIRC, motor manufacturers, the AA, Home Office and Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions.
Stephen Sklaroff, ABI deputy director-general, said: 'Future premium rises should be smaller than they otherwise would be, although there are a lot of other factors which influence premiums. But thefts are an important factor and if we can reduce the incidents of this type of crime it will have an impact on future premiums,' he said.
The ratings could also prompt manufacturers to improve the security features on their cars to attract high scores, according to Chris Patience, the AA's head of technical policy.
New Car Security Ratings can be obtained at www.ncsr.co.uk or from the Vehicle Security National helpline on 0870 550 2006.