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America's hottest auto-theft targets

This year's list, once again topped by the Cadillac Escalade, turns up the usual suspects: 'Chrome, horsepower and HEMIs.'

By MSN Money_Edit Aug 3, 2010 9:39AM

Carnappers like the Cadillac Escalade for the same reasons its owners do: Chrome, 400-plus horsepower and a sumptuous leather interior.


"Thieves are after chrome, horsepower, and HEMIs," says Kim Hazelbaker, the senior vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute. "Sedate family cars and fuel sippers aren't on the hot list."


The hot list is the nonprofit's annual tally of theft-loss claims, which the Cadillac tops for the sixth time in the past seven years.  One in every 100 Escalades is stolen, and one in every four Escalade thefts has a claim for $40,000 or more.

The Escalade has an antitheft ignition immobilizer that prevents it from being started without a special key. But Hazelbaker says thieves just haul the vehicle away on a flatbed truck. Thieves covet its fancy wheels and high-quality leather interior, both of which bolt right onto much cheaper SUVs and trucks.


The Escalade EXT four-wheel-drive has the highest theft losses of all, with $146 in theft payments per insured vehicle year -- more than 10 times the $14 average theft payments per year for all vehicles, the HLDI says. That drives the average insurance premium on some Escalade models to an astounding $2,000 a year or more, hundreds of dollars a year more than, say, a Lincoln Navigator, according to Insure.com's guide for 2010 models.


The HLDI's list of worst-claims offenders differs substantially from that published by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, which looks at overall numbers of thefts rather than taking into account the number of each vehicle insured. The Toyota Camry may be the most-stolen car, but only because it outnumbers everything else on the road.


Following the Escalade on HLDI's list are:

The Ford F-250, excluded from the list because it is considered a work truck, would have ranked second.


The group warns that thefts of pickups soared during the boom years (as much for the tools and cargo they carried as for the vehicles), and overall losses on pickups remain twice as big as those of cars and SUVs.


The vehicles least likely to be stolen are the family-friendly Volvo S80, Saturn Vue and Nissan Murano, whose theft payments per insured vehicle average $1.


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