Dog walker Brett Holte-Smith’s 2020 Transit Custom was swiped from outside a relative’s house by opportunistic thieves but fortunately he had linked the Ford Pass app on his phone to the vehicle when he bought it, meaning that its location could be tracked.
After the incident was highlighted by technology journalist Rory Cellan-Jones, whose dog Cabbage was among those stolen, Ford contacted Mr Holte-Smith to help him use the app to track the van.
Examining the app’s data allowed searchers to pinpoint a location in the capital’s Park Royal area where the van had stopped. By the time the search team reached the location, the vehicle had gone but five of the six dogs were later found roaming the area and safely recovered.
The app then showed further movements of the van, allowing searchers to track it to another part of Park Royal where police were able to locate and seize the van.
The sixth dog was then recovered later the same evening.
Former BBC correspondent Mr Cellan-Jones hailed the technology and the far-reaching impact of social media for helping return his pet.
Writing on his blog, Mr Cellan-Jones, said: Imagine this had happened 20 years ago - getting the word out would have been a much slower process involving sticking “missing” posters on every lamppost.
“There would have been no mobile sim implanted in the van’s electronics system and no smartphone app to track it with. And maybe without the noise generated on social and then traditional media, whoever drove that van away would not have felt the pressure to release those dogs.”
Mark Harvey, Ford enterprise connectivity director, said: “Connectivity is the cornerstone of our mission to deliver smart vehicles. What brings that plan to life, and makes it all the more rewarding, is real-life stories such as this, with Ford’s technologically advanced vehicles bringing about a better outcome for customers in need.”
The onbarod SIM and app with vehicle locating abilities was rolled out to most Ford commercial vehicles in 2020 after being installed to its passenger car range from 2018.