Security should be a top priority for any automobile dealership. Dealerships have millions of dollars’ worth of inventory to protect. Thieves could target any dealership that has perceived weaknesses. One important aspect of a dealership’s security plan is protecting the vehicle keys.
When casing the joint, criminals will first consider the easiest way of getting access to automobiles: using the key. The key lets crooks open a vehicle door to strip parts, or drive it off the lot.
A thief — and perhaps some accomplices — can easily observe a dealership simply by posing as a customer. They will take note of the key control system and ask themselves:
- Where are the keys stored? An open pegboard is much easier to access than a locked pegboard. An electronic key control system is even more difficult — maybe impossible — for criminals to thwart.
- How is the staff held accountable for keys? Do they have to sign out a key or enter a PIN to get access?
- If a key goes missing, how long would it take the staff or management to figure this out? (How much time would the criminal have before the missing key was noticed?)
- Is the key management system being used correctly, or are staff members defeating it?
- How is the spare key handled? Is the filing cabinet locked? Who has access?
A large part of security is personnel training. Salespeople should be trained always to accompany customers on test drives. A vehicle should not be left idling and unattended, even for a moment. Keys should never be left in a vehicle. If all staff members know they are accountable for the keys in their possession, they will be extra careful about protecting and returning keys.
Criminals posing as customers may try to steal the key after a test drive. At a dealership with an electronic key control system, the salesperson will be more alert to this tactic. The key is signed out in their own name (PIN). They know they need to collect the key after the test drive and return it as soon as practical. The last thing they want is to hear their name associated with a missing key or worse, a missing vehicle!
There has been a dramatic reduction in vehicle thefts since transponder car keys became popular in 1995. The engine doesn’t easily start without the key! The old trick of making a quick key impression into a bar of soap won’t work. This makes key theft more valuable than ever to criminals. Additionally, replacing chip keys is very expensive. An electronic key control system lets management attach an employee’s name to a missing key.
Salespeople, service personnel, lot attendants and other authorized staff members need quick, reliable access to the keys. An unlocked pegboard is a tempting solution, but it is also tempting to thieves. The need for quick access needs to be weighed against the need to keep control of the keys. Missing keys create chaos for everyone. Lost keys mean lost sales, and lost or damaged inventory.
An electronic key control system is an important part of any dealership’s security plan. Each staff member is held accountable for the keys they have checked out. The system is tamper-proof and locked. And management can run a live key report at any time. This discourages criminals, who will likely move on to an easier mark.