Does 'The Club' Make Cars Easier to Steal?

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Since its invention in 1986, The Club, a red metal security device meant to deter car thieves, has been a staple of city streets and parking lots. But what if it doesn't work? What if, as one autoworker suggests, The Club actually makes your car more likely to be stolen? Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freaknomics and a New York Times blogger, says that a former Chrysler employee wrote in about the device. It seems that he had once hired some pro thieves to evaluate car security systems.

At some point, the Club was mentioned. The professional thieves laughed and exchanged knowing glances. What we knew was that the Club is a hardened steel device that attaches to the steering wheel and the brake pedal to prevent steering and/or braking. What we found out was that a pro thief would carry a short piece of a hacksaw blade to cut through the plastic steering wheel in a couple seconds. They were then able to release The Club and use it to apply a huge amount of torque to the steering wheel and break the lock on the steering column (which most cars were already equipped with). The pro thieves actually sought out cars with The Club on them because they didn’t want to carry a long pry bar that was too hard to conceal.

Dubner suggests, "do not pass too quickly over the fact that a car company hires car thieves for consultation. If you are a businessperson, do you regularly engage those who wish to do you harm? If you are an intellectual, do you regularly sit down with those who wish to call you names?"

Not wanting to unfairly besmirch Winner International, the firm that invented and manufactures The Club, The Atlantic Wire contacted the company to offer an opportunity to respond. A representative said the company neither employed press officers and nor contracted a public relations firm, and so had no one available to speak on the company's behalf. Your associate editor declined an offer to be transferred directly to the president, reasoning that the head of a company whose product may perform its opposite intended function had bigger problems to deal with.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.