London - BMW has claimed it is powerless to prevent criminals hacking into its cars.

In e-mails to a customer seen by the UK's Daily Mail, the German giant acknowledged its latest keyless models are vulnerable to thieves using gadgets widely available online.

However, it insisted it cannot accept any responsibility for this.

The Mail has highlighted a surge in thefts using ‘relay boxes’ to extend the signal from owners’ key fobs to steal vehicles outside their homes.

BMW admitted its ‘comfort access’ cars can be stolen in this way but said that while such thefts were "extremely regrettable… we cannot take responsibility".

It insisted they were an "act involving the highest level of criminal energy", adding that "BMW is powerless against criminal mechanism".

The comments were made to a customer from Surrey whose keyless car was stolen from his driveway.

West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson said: "BMW’s attitude towards this driver is arrogant and outrageous."

Mike Hawes, of the industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: "Manufacturers are investing billions in ever more sophisticated security features.

"However, technology can only do so much and we continue to call for action to stop the open sale of devices which help criminals."

BMW said it works "constantly" to design the best security systems, adding: "We also work in partnership with police and other authorities in responding to the latest threats."