Technology innovation a first for southern Africa

July 2003 Asset Management, EAS, RFID

Avis, a leading car rental and fleet services group in southern Africa, has become the first vehicle fleet operator in the region to introduce microdot technology to reduce theft and increase recovery of stolen vehicles.

From July, more than 1000 of the new vehicles being introduced into the multimillion Avis rental fleet are being fitted with the innovative yet highly cost effective technology, which captures a vehicle's unique identification (VIN) code and other data on some 10 000 near-invisible microdots strategically located throughout the vehicle.

Authorities equipped with an inexpensive but specialised spotting scope are then able to detect the presence of a microdot within seconds, and can check the vehicle identification number with South Africa's central vehicle ownership database.

"Customer safety and fleet risk management are key drivers for Avis, and we view microdot technology as being able to play a positive role in both these spheres," says Pat O'Brien, executive director operations and finance, Avis Rent a Car, "Vehicle identification number fraud is a major problem in South Africa, whether the criminal attempts to modify or remove the VIN number or use more sophisticated methods.

"By installing microdot technology, we now effectively have 10 000 identical VIN numbers located in a vehicle, making it practically impossible for a criminal to detect, let alone remove each and every one of them," says O'Brien. "The real value of microdot technology lies not only in its theft deterrence potential, but just as important in its vehicle recovery and prosecution potential, allowing Avis to prove that a stolen vehicle is part of the Avis fleet."

Trade in stolen spare parts is also a huge problem in the country, with detection and recovery even more of a challenge given that such parts are easily stripped of any VIN numbers. Of equal concern is that many recovered vehicles have had their identities altered by theft syndicates and are unable to be traced back to their legal owners. As a result, thousands of recovered stolen vehicles are crushed every month in South Africa.

Andy Blew, managing director of DataDot South Africa, and the supplier to Avis, says that the technology has been in use around the world for the past 18 months. In Australia, for example, all new BMWs are equipped with microdots, while fleet owners are finding additional innovative uses for the technology such as monitoring tyre replacement to deter drivers from fraudulently switching their low mileage company vehicle tyres with the worn tyres from another vehicle.

It is intended that the pilot project will include all new vehicles coming into the Avis fleet on a monthly basis. Avis will be installing the microdot technology for less than a tank of petrol per vehicle, with no additional cost to the company's rental rates and with relatively minimal cost impact to the bottom line.

"From a risk management and insurance perspective, however, there is plenty of potential upside for our bottom line. We are hoping to see some big benefits come from these tiny microdots - and for the car theft grapevine to start buzzing with the news that there is just too much risk attached to stealing a car equipped with this new technology," says O'Brien.

For more information contact Nic Griffin, Avis Rent A Car, 011 923 3500.

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