‘They can be got away with literally smashing the ignition and whacking a screwdriver in – they are that easy to start’
Last month a garda car was seen on video being rammed by a stolen car as a crowd of young people watched and cheered.
The shocking incident in Cherry Orchard, west Dublin, has highlighted the dramatic increase in cars being stolen in the last two years as more of the vulnerable cars are imported.
Originally made for the Japanese car-market where car theft is less common, they are not fitted with immobilisers as standard.
To break-in and start the ignition requires very little skill as a result and because many are automatic models it makes it even easier for young teenagers to drive away.
One TikTok video posted online this week showed a gang of youngsters driving around in such a car as they looked for other vehicles to steal.
Joey Donnelly from repair specialists Crofton Motors in Dublin said that specific makes of Japanese imports are being constantly targeted by young thieves.
“There’s about five models of car that we are seeing weekly.
“They arrive in Ireland with no immobiliser. They cost €400 or €500 to install in a car, but car sales guys were just getting them in and selling them and weren’t doing anything with them.
“These lads driving around know that if they find ten of these vehicles and they break the ignition on ten of them, invariably six out of ten won’t have an immobiliser.
“They can be got away with literally smashing the ignition and whacking a screwdriver in – they are that easy to start.
“They can be away in seconds.
“It’s a pity because they are lovely little cars, they are brilliant cars, great starters.”
But Paddy Comyn from AA Ireland said that because of the shortage of second-hand cars in Ireland people have little choice when it comes to buying the imported models.
“Just the shortage of used cars and the shortage of used cars that are good value, I think this is part of the difficulty. This is why retailers are importing these in quite large numbers.”
“One reason is obviously Brexit which put a bit of an end to the importation of used cars from the UK because it is not as good value anymore.”
“The chip shortage made new cars harder to get and the value of used cars went up, now there is just nothing so that’s why they are importing these cars.”
Industry sources told the Sunday World there are also fears insurance firms could start trying avoid customers with the targeted models.
Even cars with immobilisers fitted can still be targeted and although not stolen need repairing and spare parts for Japanese imports can be hard to source.
The targeted models of cars are easily distinguishable from the European versions of the cars which are required by law to have immobilisers fitted.
It emerged in June that car theft hit a seven year high with thieves are targeting the specific types of Japanese car imports.
Gardaí advised anyone who owns a Japanese import to consider fitting old-style steering wheel locks to secure their vehicles.
It had been previously reported by The Examiner that crime prevention officer Sgt Brian McSweeney, said officers in Cork analysed the car theft figures earlier in the year and noticed the trend of certain models being targeted.
“We raised it nationally to see if it was just a Cork problem or was it a national problem.”
"The garda analysis service took a look at the problem from a national perspective and found that May 2022 saw the most incidents reported in a single month since October 2015 of cars taken nationally."
Sgt Sweeney said it became clear that specific makes, imported from the Asian market without immobilisers fitted, are being targeted.