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Big pickups rise on U.S. theft list

A thirst among vehicle thieves for horsepower, hemis and haulage has made pickup trucks a “group to watch” in an annual list of vehicle theft losses and theft rates, as compiled by a U.S. insurers’ group.

“In many cases it’s tough to pinpoint exactly why a vehicle becomes a theft target,” Kim Hazelbaker, senior vice-president of the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at Arlington, Va.

However, “investigators tell us big work trucks like the Ford F-250/350, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, and Dodge Ram 2500 are attractive not only because of the vehicles themselves but also because of the tools and cargo they carry.”

Results from the HLDI’s annual list take into account theft of a vehicle and also vehicle content. Overall theft losses for pickup trucks climbed steadily between 1999 and 2006 as the U.S. economy boomed but now are decreasing, the institute said in a release Tuesday.

Still, the HDLI said, as a group, pickups have losses that are at least twice those of cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

For pickups, the downward trend in claim frequencies that began in 1998 reversed in 2001 and increased through 2006. Meanwhile, average insurance payments per theft claim have risen the most for pickups, the institute said.

SUVs had the highest average payments per claim until 2005, when results for pickups overtook those for SUVs.

The HLDI’s ranks its top-10 list for insurance claims by “overall theft losses” per insured vehicle year, a figure which takes into account both the loss payments by insurers and the frequency with which the vehicles are stolen, with an “insured vehicle year” designating one vehicle insured for one year.

Information on theft losses published by the U.S. National Insurance Crime Bureau doesn’t take into account the number of each vehicle insured, so the most popular vehicles on the road tend to top this organization’s list of most-stolen vehicles, the HLDI says. This doesn’t tell an individual owner how likely a particular car is to have a theft claim.

Thus, the HLDI identifies vehicles with the worst theft losses by counting the number of insurance claims by make and model relative to the number of each make and model insured. This indicates the vehicles that are most likely to be theft targets, taking into account their exposure on the road.

So topping the HLDI’s list, unsurprisingly, is a large-sized luxury SUV, the Cadillac Escalade, at $128, with an average loss payment of $11,934 per claim (all figures US$).

While Escalades have “the latest” in anti-theft immobilizers, “thieves still can put them on flatbeds and haul them away,” Hazelbaker said.

No. 2, however, is the Ford F-250 4-WD crew, with overall theft losses of $91 and average loss payments of $9,636 per claim.

And No. 9 on the list is the Chevy Silverado 1500 crew, with an overall theft losses ranking of $53 and average loss payments of $6,814 per claim.

Nos. 3 through 8 are the Infiniti G-37 (two-door), Dodge Charger Hemi, Chevy Corvette Z06, Hummer H2, Nissan Pathfinder Armada and Chevy Avalanche 1500. No. 10 is the GMC Yukon.

No. 1 on the list for lowest losses is the Volvo S80, a luxury car with an overall theft loss ranking of $1 and average loss payment of $619 per claim.

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