Issue: Mar 2003

Asia Report

Car Break-ins Increase in Japan, OEMs Seeking Solution

With auto theft at record levels, Japanese carmakers have begun beefing up security offerings in hopes of deterring would-be thieves. High on the list: putting engine immobilizers into domestic cars.

The Toyota Land Cruiser is the number one target of Japanese thieves.
At present, all upscale cars by Toyota and Nissan including the Celsior, Soarer, Fairlady Z and Cima (sold outside Japan as the Lexus LX430, SC430, 350Z and Q45) are equipped with the device. Reflecting recent police reports on stolen vehicles, both companies are gradually extending the feature into the mass-market segment. Other Japanese carmakers are expected to follow soon.

Its not only luxury cars that are being stolen, says one analyst. In fact, of an estimated 63,000 sedans, wagons, SUVs and passenger vans lifted in fiscal 2001 and another 430,000 broken into, more than a third were in main product lines.

Both theft and break-in figures are projected to go up when fiscal 2002 results become available in April, along with insurance company payouts which now exceed $500 million per year.

Vehicle Break-ins
 in Osaka in Fiscal 2000
Land Cruiser 1,089
Crown 998
Celsior 700
Skyline 635
Civic 402
Aristo 361
Cima 309
Merceces Benz 300
Gloria 278
Mark Ii 251
Cedric 247
Town Ace 215
Hiace  207
Harrier 172
Carry 155
Wagon R 155
Source: Kato Electric
Against this backdrop, companies are looking at other options besides immobilizers. For instance, several manufacturers including Secom Co., Kato Electric Co. and Omron Corp. have developed security systems that link a cars GPS module to an Internet or i-mode phone.

Secoms CocoSecom system, introduced two years ago in April, has been installed in more than 150,000 cars including foreign makes like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The systems main attraction is its price, as the monthly service charge is only $7.50. Its main shortcoming is that without some sort of sensing capability it cannot alert owners of a break-in.

Katos Keep, due to go on sale from April, is far more elaborate as it employs an unspecified number of sensors including sound sensors. The base unit will retail for $458 plus a $16.50 monthly service fee. The company hopes to sell 1,000 units per month.

Omrons Car B Box system, introduced in May 2001, incorporates tilt, shock and shaking sensors to alert the owner of a break-in. If a window is smashed or a door pried open, the sensors will detect this intrusion and alert the owner. Among the menu of options that can be initiated remotely from the owners cell phone: engaging the cars horn or flashing its emergency lights.

Takaaki Ombe, an official in Omrons business development center, says by incorporating GPS with Internet phone technology, Car Box and its successor Carmoni 300 can track the location of an individuals car after being stolen. He adds that the system, can cover all areas of Japan except those where cell phone service is unavailable.

Ombe notes that while the technology is already available to stop the engine remotely, further study is needed on its traffic safety impact before introducing the feature.

The main problem for Omron: price. At 415 plus $20 in monthly service charges, most consumers will not purchase the system. Still, Ombe believes that price can be brought down to under $333 in the next two years which would make the system less costly than Lojacks by half.

Omron, a leading maker of sensors and wireless control systems, believes that sales of car security systems will take off from 2005 when he predicts that worldwide demand will reach $83 million. Five years later, he thinks global demand could reach $4.2 billion including $625 million in Japan.

In addition to Car B Box, Omron began selling Carmoni 100 and 200, the industrys first surveillance and notification devices employing sound-pressure sensors, in December. Neither system employs GPS, thus is not expected to have a major impact on the market.

Eventually, Ombe expects car security systems to be integrated with telematics at which time companies such as Denso Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. can be expected to enter the market.


Cases Filed


Fiscal 1989 3,800 $22.5 million
Fiscal 1990  3,900 $23.3 million
Fiscal 1991 4,900 $40 million
Fiscal 1992  6,300 $54.2 million
Fiscal 1993 7,300 $65.0 million
Fiscal 1994 7,800 $85.0 million
Fiscal 1995 9,400 $97.5 million
Fiscal 1996 10,200 $143.3 million
Fiscal 1997 12,100 $158.3 million
Fiscal 1998 16,800 $200 million
Fiscal 1999 28,100 $343.3 million
Fiscal 2000  N.A.  N.A.

This article was provided exclusively to Automotive Industries by JREPORTS, a new information service offering in-depth coverage of automotive technology based in Tokyo. For additional information about this and other studies and prices, contact

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