VW Wins Theft Prevention Exemption for New Beetle Immobilizer

NHTSA yesterday announced it has granted an exemption from its Theft Prevention Standard (49 CFR 543) to Volkswagen of America, Inc. for the automaker's New Beetle vehicle line beginning with model year 2008. The agency determined that an antitheft device that will be standard equipment in those vehicles "is likely to be as effective in reducing and deterring motor vehicle theft as compliance with the parts-marking requirements of the Theft Prevention Standard."

VW sought confidentiality for the information it submitted when it petitioned Feb. 7 for the exemption, and NHTSA kept details out of its Federal Register. Section 543.5(a) allows manufacturers to petition NHTSA to grant exemptions for one vehicle line per year. VW "provided a detailed description and diagram of the identity, design, and location of the components of the antitheft device for its New Beetle vehicle line" and will include in the passive antitheft device an immobilizer control unit, a reading coil on the ignition lock, an engine control unit, a transponder-based ignition key, a remote key fob, and a visible and audible alarm, NHTSA said. The device is activated by turning the key in the driver's door lock or by locking the vehicle with the remote key fob, and it prevents the vehicle from being operated by unauthorized persons.

"When the ignition key is turned to the 'on' position, the key's transporter, the immobilizer control unit, and the engine control unit initiate a complex set of tests to determine if vehicle start-up should be enabled," the announcement said. "If the tests fail, the vehicle cannot be started. The vehicle's audible alarm and emergency flasher features are also activated if any of the protected areas of the vehicle are violated. The protected areas include the doors, luggage compartment, engine compartment and the radio." If VW decides not to include the unit in this line, it must alert NHTSA and make major components and replacement parts as the regulation requires.

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