Mercedes is caught in a row over privacy after admitting its cars are fitted with secret sensors which can pinpoint their location.
All new and used cars sold by Mercedes-Benz dealers are fitted with tracking devices. The firm sold more than 170,000 new cars in Britain alone last year.
It insisted the sensors are only activated in ‘extreme circumstances’, such as when car finance customers have defaulted on their payments so they can be tracked down.
All new and used cars sold by Mercedes-Benz dealers are fitted with tracking devices which can pinpoint their exact location at the flip of a switch
But it admitted information about car owners and location details are shared with third-party bailiffs and recovery firms to hunt down and repossess the cars.
Around 80 per cent of new Mercedes are sold on finance plans, and the company dominates the car leasing market.
Under EU data protection laws, tracking a vehicle without its driver’s knowledge is illegal.
However, those who buy the cars on finance sign lengthy terms and conditions. These include a clause about the activation of ‘location sensors’ in bold print above where the customer signs.
Thieves target keyless Fords
Ford cars are top targets for thieves – at least in the West Midlands.
A total of 1,557 have been taken this year – more than treble the 489 stolen in 2015, according to the region’s police and crime commissioner David Jamieson.
He criticised manufacturers for failing to tackle keyless entry thefts, saying ‘progress’ was ‘far too slow’.
Ford said: ‘We have new security on the Fiesta and Focus keyless fobs which block illegal hacking.’
Yesterday former Cabinet minister David Davis called on the Government to investigate the sensors.
He told The Sun: ‘This is not the first time big business has behaved like Big Brother – but it’s rare to be quite as deceitful as this. I have to question whether it is even legal to pass on information to other people such as bailiffs.
‘The relevant minister ought to look very closely at the legality of this procedure.’
Other car manufacturers, including BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen, have confirmed they do not carry out similar tracking.
Mercedes-Benz said sensors are not used to permanently track customers or access real-time data, although it would not confirm how long it had used the devices.
A spokesman added: ‘Locating the car is part of the repossession process and is not permanently tracking customers.
‘It is only activated in exceptional circumstances where the customer has breached their finance agreement and repeatedly failed to reply to requests to contact us.’