Alexandra man Brian Smith holds the transponder near his car. Photo by Leith Huffadine.
An Alexandra couple hope others can learn from their
near-death experience after being trapped in their new
''keyless'' car in their own garage for almost 13 hours
Mollieanne (65) and Brian Smith (68) are still coming to
terms with the early November incident when confusion about
operating their Mazda 3 hatchback led them to believe there
was no way to get out.
The pair were stuck after a series of ''Murphy's Law''
events, including leaving the car's manual in the house,
leaving the transponder outside the car and a combination of
stress, night-time, and what they called a lack of
information from a car salesperson.
After becoming trapped about 7pm on November 5, their
attempts to escape included sounding the horn and trying to
smash a window with a car jack.
Mrs Smith said it was Guy Fawkes night, and no-one would have
noticed the horn due to fireworks.
When they were freed by neighbours about 7.45am the next day,
she was unconscious and her husband was struggling to
She said they were told by emergency services if they had
spent another half hour in the car and they could have died.
Afterwards, Mrs Smith spent three days in Dunstan Hospital.
Mr Smith, who considered himself ''very methodical'', said he
could not find the unlocking mechanism.
''Once I found out how simple it was to unlock it I kicked
myself that I did not find the way out ... I had this
mind-set that I did not have the transponder [so I could not
The car salesperson had made it seem the car would not work
without the transponder, he said.
He now knew the manual lock was the same as the inside door
handle on many other vehicles.
Mr Smith said his message for owners of ''keyless''cars - not
just Mazda models - was to educate themselves on how to
operate their car before using it.
Mrs Smith said she had decided to ''go public'' as people
needed to be aware of the risks of keyless cars, particularly
older people inexperienced in new technology.
She had received phone calls from about five people reporting
similar keyless-car experiences.
Mazda New Zealand general manager Glenn Harris said the
report of the couple being trapped in the car in that manner
was an industry first.
''It's not a design flaw with the car ... what we have said
to the network is, with new technologies, don't forget to
show customers how to use them in their entirety [and] how to
override them. There is always a manual process to override
Mr Harris said he ''completely'' empathised with the couple,
and said the company needed to ensure it did not happen to