The 1999 Acura Integra coupe was the most-stolen vehicle last year and Integras from other model years weren't far behind, likely the targets of street racers who want their fast engines, according to a report released Tuesday.
One out of every 200 registered 1999 Acura Integras was stolen last year, said Chicago-based CCC Information Services Inc., an insurance industry tracker of theft and vehicle damage. The list compares loss claims to the total number of registered vehicles.
The 2002 BMW M Roadster was No. 2 on the list and the 1998 Acura Integra was third. Other vehicles in the top 10 include the 1991 GMC V2500, the 2002 Audi S4 and the 2004 Mercury Marauder.
Jeanene O'Brien, CCC's director of marketing services, said an upsurge in street racing may be responsible for the appearance of the Integra and other fast cars on the list.
"We can never say for sure why a car's stolen, but we can look at the data and make some interesting assumptions," O'Brien said.
She said the Integra, which was replaced by the RSX in the 2002 model year, also may be targeted for its parts. Acura is Honda Motor Co.'s luxury brand, and the Integra engine can fit into other Hondas, for example.
O'Brien said it's difficult to overstate the value of vehicle parts. A 2000 Honda Accord LX cost $22,365 when it was new but would cost $68,065 if it were built entirely from Honda replacement parts, she said.
Pop culture's love affair with vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade sport utility vehicle also is driving up thefts because of perceived value, O'Brien said. A used Escalade can still command up to $49,000, she said. Limited-production vehicles like the Mercury Marauder — which was made for only two years — also are targets.
"Never before in our society have we had such insight into movie and music stars and their cars and homes, and that drives up preferences," O'Brien said.
Acura spokesman Mike Spencer said Acura was aware of the theft problem and made several changes to the Integra during its lifetime, including adding more secure locks and immobilizer systems and installing door panels that were harder for thieves to break into.
"Unfortunately, if somebody really wants to steal your car, they're going to steal it," Spencer said. "That's pretty hard to avoid."
The average age of a stolen vehicle in 2004 was 6.6 years, down slightly from 2003. The average age of all registered vehicles on the road in 2004 was 7.9 years.
Vehicles from the 1997 model year were most susceptible to theft last year, followed by model years 1996, 1999, 1995 and 1998. Acura was the most-stolen brand, followed by Hummer, Land Rover, Daewoo and Honda.
CCC, which provides software and information services to insurers and repair shops, compiles its report with loss claims from more than 350 property and casualty insurers in North America. The annual report is based on total losses for vehicles that are stolen and not recovered or stripped to the point of being a total loss.