Vehicles purchased on finance can now be disabled automatically if motorists miss payments. This comes courtesy of a keypad operated immobiliser system supplied by U.S. company Prompt Pay. Shall we consider a scenario? Craig has a new car on finance. He has sent his first payment and therefore received a six digit code. He enters this into the immobiliser which allows the car to operate normally – for now. However, three days before the next payment becomes due the immobiliser springs to life. It therefore shows '3' on its screen indicating that Craig has three days to pay. This becomes '2', then '1'. The message is reinforced by beeps. After this, the car will not start until Craig pays to receive a new code.
The immobiliser was launched in the U.S. in 2006. It now – according to Rob Toon the National Sales Manager for Prompt Pay - protects “twenty-five million of receivables in the near to sub-prime sector”. Delinquency, Rob says, sits at “negligible levels." So far, the system has been utilised by at least one-hundred UK dealerships and finance companies. But is that fair? On one hand, leaving a motorist stuck in a multi-story with kids and bags of shopping seems harsh – particularly as payments can be delayed through bank errors, etc. On the other hand car companies are not charities, they require payments to be profitable, and the system provides several warnings before immobilisation. Little harsh then... but fair.