The Dark Side of Telematics - GPS-Enabled Auto Repossession

Many new and used car dealers who are specializing in secondary or bad credit financing are “protecting their investments” (or abusing their customers, depending on your point of view), with a combination of GPS and “ignition – kill” devices. Basically if a car buyer falls behind on his or her payments, the lender can remotely “kill” the ignition (basically an electronic version of the “Boot” that police agencies use to make frequent parking ticket offenders pay their fines) making it impossible to start, and then use the GPS capability to route the repoman directly to the car, where they “unkill” it and repossess it.

The sub-prime market and used car dealers love this capability for obvious (makes repossession much easier and lower cost, and serves as a deterrent to falling behind on the payments) and not obvious reasons (they literally can and do sell the same car multiple times - I'm told as many as 8 or 10 times!). There are no laws to protect consumers from this practice, which is particularly popular in areas like the southwest that have a large sub-prime market in the immigrant population. With a nationwide repossession rate of over 2% by some counts (and likely far higher in the sub-prime market) and growing, this practice is also very likely to grow, and numerous makers of these systems are emerging. While understandable from a business standpoint, business practices and privacy abuses like this could give GPS/LBS a bad name. For more info go to