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Immobilizers to be mandatory on high-risk used cars in Manitoba

Last Updated: Wednesday, August 23, 2006 | 4:04 PM CT

Manitoba Public Insurance's latest plan to fight auto theft is under fire by some used-car dealers, who aren't happy about a plan to install immobilizers in many used cars.

Starting Sept. 1, immobilizers will be mandatory on high-risk used vehicles if they are sold or brought into the province.

An immobilizer – the latest in anti-theft technology – prevents a vehicle's engine from starting without a specific electronic signal, usually generated by a chip in the auto's ignition key.

MPI maintains a list of vehicle models that face a high risk of being stolen and that must have immobilizers installed. Many of the models at risk date to 1980.

MPI will pay up to $280 for purchase and standard installation of the immobilizer on high-risk used cars. Until recently, it said it was the owner's responsibility to pay for the installation. It costs about $240 to install a basic immobilizer.

"It will affect anyone bringing a used car into Manitoba. They will have to get an immobilizer," said MPI spokesman Brian Smiley on Tuesday.

Most used cars brought in by dealerships

More than 6,000 vehicles are brought into Manitoba every year, most of them brought in by dealers.

MPI's decision had David Foxon of Pacific Motors fuming. He argues MPI's new plan will create more work for dealerships.

"I just feel that it's another thing that we're getting forced to do a job that we're not paid for again, and we have too much work to do now just to meet all the rules and regulations," Foxon said Tuesday.

Furthermore, consumers are waiting about a month and a half to have the immobilizers installed on their cars. It's a delay Foxon said dealers can't afford.

"If a car dealer usually turns over a hundred thousand dollars of inventory a month, and he can't do that, and it's two months down the road, now you have to triple the amount of cars you keep just to keep the same inventory flowing," he said.

But Nick Roberts, head of the Manitoba Used Car Dealers Association, said his group plans to help out.

"We have an associate member of ours that has a large shop for installing immobilizers; he's promised to give the dealers priority," he said.

Roberts said it's not clear if the garages will be able to handle the initial wave of used cars. But since MPI is covering the cost of installing the immobilizers, dealers should be satisfied.

"Basically, Manitoba Public Insurance is footing the bill for them, so we're happy with that. We're happy to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem."

MPI's new plan will not only affect dealers. Private sellers of a high-risk car will have to ensure it is equipped with an immobilizer before it can change hands.

Vehicles with an immobilizer approved by the Vehicle Information Centre of Canada receive rebates between $40 and $100 per year from MPI.

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