Home Office minister Hazel Blears, presenting the first British Insurance Car Security Awards, warned car manufacturers that legislation is likely if they do not adopt the special glass.
Blears, speaking at the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre, Thatcham, said the theft and attempted theft of and from privately-owned vehicles had been cut by 23% since 1999 but there was no room for complacency.
Strengthened side windows were important to defeat opportunist thieves, said the Minister, who is responsible for crime reduction, policing and community safety.
'Manufacturers must keep ahead of criminals and laminated side glass is the next ingenious route they can take,' Blears told an audience of representatives of leading carmakers.
'I know I must make the idea attractive to you. Do it for your customers and empower them to drive up standards. I prefer the route of encouraging you but there is always legislation – remember immobilisers.'
Asked afterwards whether she was giving the industry a veiled threat about legislation, Blears told Fleet News: 'I don't give veiled threats. I am talking to manufacturers and encouraging them to view side laminated glass as a useful addition to the security armoury. Volvo has adopted it, and Honda is considering it.'
Volvo was named as the manufacturer making the greatest overall contribution to car security, although it failed to win any of the 10 awards for individual models. All leading car manufacturers support the new awards which Peter Roberts, Thatcham chief executive, said represented a concerted commitment by the insurance industry, Government and the motor industry to fight car crime.
But most carmakers are sceptical about the potential benefit of fitting side laminated glass. Concerns are based on the reality of its value as a deterrent, higher cost when pricing is critical and safety, as it could make it more difficult to rescue people trapped in a car. Christopher Macgowan, Society of Manufacturers and Traders chief executive, who attended the awards, said: 'The market must be left to decide.
Side laminated glass can be beneficial to certain models, where it adds to the overall structural strength of the car. There are different types of laminated glass though and that must be taken into consideration.'
Leading European automotive glass manufacturers formed the Advanced Automotive Glazing Manufacturers Association (AAGMA) in 1998. It says two thin layers of glass, bonded around an interlayer, are nearly 30 times more intruder-resistant than conventional toughened glass.
Critics claim that laminated side glass makes it difficult for emergency services to reach trapped occupants in the event of a crash.
This is refuted by makers as they believe it is safer as the window can be pulled out as one piece, rather than smashing into hundreds of shards.
Security glazing was one of the security features used as criteria to create a database for the awards -– others included double locking, alarms and immobilisers and parts identification.
British Insurance Car Security Awards 2004
The awards were sponsored by AAGMA, Thatcham, the Department for Transport and the AA
1 Citroen C3 Exclusive
(only short-listed model)
Small family car
1 Audi A3 1.6, 1.6 SE, 1.6 Sport and 2.0 FSI/TDI (including SE and Sport)
2 Volkswagen Golf GT and SE
3 Mazda 3
4 Renault Megane II Dynamique and Privilege
1 Toyota Avensis saloon
2 Volvo S/V40 Classic and new S40/V50
Compact executive car
1 Lexus IS200/300 saloon
2 Jaguar X-type
1 Ford Focus C-MAX Ghia (except 2.0i)
2 Renault Scenic II Dynamique and Privilege
3 Volkswagen Touran
1 Renault Espace (except Authentique)
2 Volkswagen Caravelle SE
1 Saab 9-3 Convertible
2 Volvo C70
1 Nissan 350Z Coupe
2 Ford Focus ST170
3 Ford Mondeo ST220
4 Citroen C2 VTR
1 Volkswagen Touareg
2 Toyota Land Cruiser
1 Audi A8 3.7 and 4.2 V8 quattro
2 Volkswagen Phaeton 3.2 V6 and 6.0 W12 4Motion
3 Lexus LS430