Honda and Toyota products topped the latest list of the cars most frequently targeted by thieves – but Detroit models are becoming increasingly popular, as well, according to a report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
On the positive side, preliminary FBI data show that car theft is continuing to decline, with the numbers down about 7.2% last year which, if the statistics hold up, would make it the lowest figure since 1967, according to the NICB.
The 1994 Honda Accord topped the “Hot Wheels” list prepared annually by the Crime Bureau – its third year in a row at the top — followed by the 1995 Honda Civic. Rounding out the top three was the 1991 Toyota Camry. But there was only one other import among the Top Ten, the 1994 Acura Integra, which was eighth. Domestic-made products, including the 1999 Chevrolet Silverado and 2002 Ford Explorer, made up the rest of the list. It was the first time since 2002 that more Detroit models made the list than import brands.
The Explorer and 2004 Dodge Ram, meanwhile, were the only two models built after the turn of the millennium, suggesting that newer products are either more difficult to steal or are less popular with thieves.
Indeed, the NICB report notes that, “Improved technology is one of the keys to lower theft rates and the Hot Wheels statistics demonstrate that. Of the nearly 52,000 Honda Accords stolen in 2010, over 44,000 were models made in the 1990s, compared with fewer than 5,700 that were produced since the year 2000.”
While the theft of exotic cars, like a Ferrari, might make for local headlines, thieves more often target mainstream products. And the Hot Wheels report says that older models are preferred by those who run “chop shops,” since the parts can readily be resold. They’re also less likely to be insured.
“Newer, more expensive and insured vehicles are often stolen to be resold intact with counterfeit vehicle identification numbers or shipped out of the country,” according to the NICB.
The organization recommends what it describes as a “layered approach” to preventing theft. That starts by locking a vehicle and taking the key – a common sense strategy that owners often ignore. A warning device helps scare thieves away, according to the NICB, while immobilizing devices, like so-called kill switches, are proving extremely effective. So are tracking devices, which can alert an owner when a car is stolen and make it easier to track the thief.
Car thefts have been steadily declining, in part due to more aggressive law enforcement efforts, but also due to both better vehicle design and the use of immobilizers and tracking systems.
But the rate of theft differs widely by region of the country. And earlier report from the NICB found that the West Coast has become a hot spot, with communities in California and Washington making up the entire Top Ten list of metro areas with the highest auto theft rates in 2010.
Fresno, California tops the chart, followed by Modesto and the Bakersfield-Delano metro, both also in California.
Here’s the full list of the Top Ten Most Stolen Vehicles from 2010:
1. 1994 Honda Accord
2. 1995 Honda Civic
3. 1991 Toyota Camry
4. 1999 Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size)
5. 1997 Ford F150 Series/Pickup
6. 2004 Dodge Ram
7. 2000 Dodge Caravan
8. 1994 Acura Integra
9. 2002 Ford Explorer
10. 1999 Ford Taurus