Thieves made off with at least seven Chevrolet Camaros straight from GM’s Lansing Grand River Assembly plant in Michigan Monday morning, leading to a no-holds-barred police chase, one crash, nine arrests and the recovery of at least some of the stolen vehicles.
Details are still hazy after the multi-car theft and chase, which stretched nearly halfway across the state and involved both state and county police. From the Detroit Free Press:
The car thieves, police said, separated into at least two groups, breaking into packs of two to four cars. Troopers in Lansing started the pursuit, which headed along Interstate 96 near Brighton.
More troopers, and local agencies, got involved as the stolen Camaros zoomed along the interstate from Kensington Road to M-5, through Lyon, Wixom, Novi and Farmington Hills.
Troopers from Lansing, Brighton, Taylor, and the canine unit, as well as the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office, a helicopter and drones, chased the drivers.
There were no injuries to the public, troopers or suspects, state police said in a tweet.
One of the groups of stolen cars, police said, crashed on I-96 near Kensington Road, with suspects running away. The other group separated, with some exiting at Grand River Avenue and others on northbound M-5.
Lansing to Farmington Hills! Those two spots are over an hour away in regular traffic. Police ended up arresting nine people on charges ranging from fleeing, alluding police and concealing a stolen vehicle. Police recovered five of the Camaros, one using tire spikes. One of the stolen Camaros crashed on I-96, with the suspects fleeing the scene.
Thieves making off with cars straight from auto plants is not a new phenomenon, and it’s certainly not restricted to General Motors. In March, Stellantis lost vehicles from both an assembly plant and storage lot, according to WXYZ. Last December, Ford lost four brand new Mustang GT500s from the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan. Assembly plants are sprawling complexes covering acres of land, making them not all that easy to keep secure 24 hours a day. The same goes for the storage lots where automakers store unfinished vehicles or vehicles waiting to be shipped. Such lots only expanded during the pandemic, as chip shortages made finishing and shipping new vehicles difficult.
How are thieves making off with such vehicles? According to WXYZ:
This is an epidemic we’ve been showing you for more than a year. It started with an internal Michigan State Police Bulletin sent to all local police departments. The bulletin says in most cases thieves are using computer tablets to duplicate key fobs and drive off the cars within seconds.
Police working these cases are dealing with layers of people involved.
Stellantis also provided WXYZ a statement in March regarding security updates to try and combat the problem:
The Key Programming Lockdown software update is in market for Dodge Challenger/Charger Scat Pack and Hellcat models, extending back to 2019MY. Software for 2018MY to 2015MY vehicles will be rolled out in the coming months. The intrusion module feature is standard on Dodge Challenger/Charger Scat Pack and Hellcat models, and optional on all other models, including Chrysler 300, regardless of powertrain.
While network security in cars has been improving in recent years, technology progresses far more quickly than cars, which take years to develop. Network security remains pretty terrible. Some cars can be stolen in seconds using easily accessible technology.