July 30, 2013 at 11:20 AM ET
When it comes to luxury cars, auto thieves prefer the Germans.
Mercedes-Benz is targeted the most, with three models – the C-Class, E-Class and S-Class – among the Top 10 most frequently stolen luxury vehicles, according to a report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
German vehicles, in general, were among the most frequently stolen high-line products, perhaps no surprise considering brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW – which had two models in the Top 10 – are also the luxury segment sales leaders.
Each of Japan’s three upscale brands had a single model on the list, as did Detroit’s Lincoln and Cadillac.
According to the NICB, The Mercedes C-Class was the most stolen luxury vehicle during the period it studied, from 2009 through 2012. Notably, the small Mercedes sedan, along with most of the other models on the list, is in the entry-luxury segment. Other models including the second-ranked BMW 3-Series, the similarly priced Infiniti G at third, the eighth-ranked Acura TSX and the Lexus IS at ninth.
Among the more traditional luxury models were the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series. The big Mercedes S-Class was the only premium model on the Top 10 list according to the NICB.
The trade organization said it recorded just 4,384 luxury vehicles stolen during the four years covered by the study, a modest number compared with overall car theft figures. One reason is that luxury vehicles account for a fraction of the total U.S. market.
Thieves often target mainstream vehicles that can readily be resold or stripped down for parts, luxury cars are far from immune. They tend to look for models that are in plentiful supply – and which may need collision and other repair parts, as a sizable number of stolen vehicles are stripped down rather than re-sold whole. Occasionally, high-end products will wind up being shipped out of the U.S., however, often to third-world markets where buyers might not want to ask too many questions.
Of the 4,384 stolen luxury vehicles, the NICB reported that all but 713 have been recovered – a recovery rate of 83.7 percent. Though the organization didn’t offer an explanation, that may reflect the fact that many of the newer luxury models are equipped with advanced telematics and dedicated stolen vehicle recovery systems that allow police to track a vehicle and even shut down their engines to make it easier for authorities to catch a thief.
The Mercedes Mbrace system has been responsible for recovering a large number of the maker’s vehicles, “some very swiftly,” said a spokesman for the manufacturer.
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However, the vehicle with the highest recovery rate on the list was the Cadillac CTS, at 91 percent, according to the NICB.
California accounted for about one in every four of the luxury vehicles stolen during the study period, while South Dakota and Wyoming each reported just one theft. In terms of local markets, the greater New York area – which includes New York City, Long Island and northern New Jersey, accounted for 806 of the thefts, making it a dubious number one. The vast Los Angeles market, meanwhile, was second on the list, followed by Miami. Those are three of the nation’s top markets for luxury car sales, as well.
Earlier this summer, the Des Plaines, Illinois-based NICB reported that overall car theft rose 1.3 percent in 2012, the first increase in eight years. And eight of the top 10 “hot spots,” it said, were located in California. According to the organization, that reflected California’s proximity to ports, as well as the Mexican border, making it easier to get rid of hot cars. The state has also had major financial problems that have reduced police manpower in recent years.
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