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More and more vehicle manufacturers are using transponder-equipped mechanical keys and keyless fobs to operate their new vehicles. There is also an increase in the number of vehicles equipped with higher security mechanical lock mechanisms including Tibbe and sidewinder. The combination of mechanical and electronic locking mechanisms provides additional levels of security for the vehicle owner.
Automotive anti-theft technology is continually changing as more powerful transponders are being introduced. The latest is the Ford 80 Bit transponder that will be introduced on most 2011 model year vehicles throughout the calendar year. The Ford 80 Bit transponder is backwards compatible with 40 Bit technology Ford vehicles. However, 40 Bit technology vehicles cannot take full advantage of the capability of the 80 Bit transponder.
Another example of new introductions is the General Motors Flip key, a sidewinder remote-equipped key used by Buick, Chevrolet and GMC models. Ford is introducing the sidewinder lock mechanism onto the 2011 Fiesta and the 2012 Escape and Focus.
Continuing with Ford, four different mechanical lock mechanisms are available for the North American market - 8-cut, 10-cut, Tibbe (Transit Connect) and sidewinder. Five different transponders have been introduced since the model year 1996 including the Texas Instruments fixed code, the Motorola fixed code, the PATS III Encrypted, and the 40 Bit and 80 Bit Texas Instruments Encrypted.
For most locksmiths including those who do a significant amount of automotive work, it is no longer practical to stock every automotive key blank. Transponder and circuit board-equipped key blanks including remote head and Integrated Key Transponders are significantly more expensive than plastic head non-electronic key blanks.
We have received a number of requests from locksmiths wanting to know the most popular automotive key blanks - the ones that are “must haves” and which can wait and be ordered as needed. Automotive key blank popularity varies by many factors including location, population density, income and your customer base. No one list will provide the “must haves” for everyone. However, there are some general patterns that can be determined for many of the more popular automotive key blanks.
An excellent suggestion I received is to look at the vehicles around you when you are driving. See what makes, models and years are out there being driven in your area. This can give you insight into what your potential customers will own. In addition, are there rent-a-car companies, car dealerships and body shops in your area? Whose vehicle are being rented or repaired?
For this article, I have contacted A-1 Security Manufacturing, Bianchi USA, HATA, Kaba Ilco, Jet Hardware, JMA and STRATTEC, and requested lists of what they consider their “must haves” automotive key blanks.
The supplied “must have” lists range from more than 100 numbers to less than 20. I have limited the key blanks to cars, trucks, sport/recreational vehicles and vans. I have also limited the choices to primary key blanks.
I did request their lists include whenever possible only generic key blank part numbers. Key blank companies usually pay a fee for the right to sell logo key blanks. This adds additional cost to the transponder and non-transponder key blanks. Non-logo programmable transponder key blanks are designed to be functionally equivalent to the logo key transponders. However, some of your customers may be willing to pay additional to have a key with their manufacturer’s logo.
If the key blank company has multiple logo key blanks, whenever possible only the generic will be listed in the primary charts in order to focus the number of included keys. Where there are only manufacturer’s logo key blanks available, the logo will be indicated. For the generic key blanks, there will be separate lists for each key blank manufacturer containing their logo keys and the generic keys that operate them.