Approximately 800,000 motor vehicles were stolen in the United States in 2009, the most recent year for which the FBI provides statistics. That represents a loss of $5.2 billion nationwide.
The Toyota Camry was stolen more than any other make, possibly because there were so many to be stolen. About 448,000 Camrys were manufactured in 2009, and of those, 781 were stolen, at a rate of 1.74 per thousand cars produced. Luxury cars are produced in much lower runs than standard models, so far fewer units are stolen every year. But they’re attractive to thieves nonetheless.
According to Karl Brauer, CEO of the online car review aggregator TotalCarScore.com, luxury cars are normally stolen for two reasons. “Luxury and premium models, such as those in this list, are typically stolen by professional car thieves for export, where they can fetch a premium over their domestic value,” he said in an e-mail. “If they're not exported, then many are parted-out for sale on the black market.”
So what defines a luxury car? Three simple criteria, according to Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for the automotive information resource Kelley Blue Book. A luxury car is produced by a traditional luxury manufacturer, such as Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz; it retails for no less than $45,000; and it offers a smooth ride, even on bumpy roads.
Using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, CNBC.com assembled a list of the most frequently stolen luxury cars in the U.S. Cars are ranked according to thefts per thousand cars produced. Also included are the insights of Brauer, who gave CNBC.com his take on why the cars on this list present irresistible opportunities for thieves, and represent painful losses to their owners.
Read ahead to see which are the most stolen luxury cars in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 1 August 2012
Theft rate: 3.01 per thousand
The Volvo V70 is a mid-size station wagon introduced in 1997. Three were stolen in 2009 from its production run of 996 units.
“It's surprising to us the Volvo V70 made the list,” Brauer said. “It's among the lowest scoring models in the luxury wagon segment, but we are mindful that when it comes to Volvos, there is a very loyal customer-base. Not to mention, wagons have a cult-like following. Combining these two elements results in a desirable vehicle for consumers, creating a high enough demand to land this vehicle on the most stolen list.”
Theft rate: 3.31 per thousand
Audi has been making the A8 since 1994, and in 1997 it gained prominence as the first mass-produced car with a lightweight aluminum chassis. Of the 1,810 produced in 2009, six were stolen.
“Like the high-performance Audi S8, Audi's A8 offers an excellent blend of luxury and performance (albeit to a lesser degree than the S8) at a great value all while providing all-wheel drive as standard-issue,” Brauer said. “So it's no wonder the A8 joins the S8 in making the cut for professional car thieves.”
Theft rate: 3.32 per thousand
The Chrysler Sebring didn’t exactly win rave reviews before it was discontinued in 2010. Edmunds.com said that “the Sebring may be a decent car on vacation, but we'd think twice about taking one home.” Despite the lukewarm reviews, car thieves stole 65 of the 19,588 units manufactured in the U.S. in 2009.
“Like the convertible version, the Chrysler Sebring Sedan offered roominess and high levels of standard equipment for a competitive price,” Brauer said. “Even though it scores near the bottom of its segment, the vehicle still sold in relatively strong numbers, especially in rental-fleet configurations. The large volume and broad selection of these vehicles seemingly make them objects of desire for theft.”
Theft rate: 3.73 per thousand
The Chrysler Sebring Convertible was more popular with critics than its sedan variant. Although Edmunds.com said that its performance “won't exactly light your hair on fire,” a kind word was spared for its retractable hardtop, which “hushes wind noise and creates a more all-weather-friendly car” when raised.
It wasn’t just the critics who liked the Chrysler Sebring Convertible --- thieves did too. In 2009, 18 of the 4,827 manufactured in that year were stolen.
“The Chrysler Sebring convertible (replaced by the Chrysler 200), was a popular choice among consumers based on its reasonable price, premium nameplate and availability of a power retractable hard top,” Brauer said. “Though the Sebring convertible is unlikely to be smuggled out of the country, its popularity puts enough of them on the road to earn it a spot on the most stolen list.”
Theft rate: 3.91 per thousand
Mercedes-Benz’s status as a luxury brand is undisputed. The German manufacturer has been making top-of-the-line automobiles since 1926, including the CL-Class luxury coupe. Only 1,278 of these were made in 2009, and of those, five were stolen.
“The Mercedes-Benz CL-Class is a stylish luxury coupe that has many appealing features, including a powerful standard V8 engine and very powerful V12 option,” Brauer said. “The CL is surprisingly nimble given its size and weight. Its large size coupled with appealing styling makes a statement whether rolling down the street or parked curbside, making the CL desired by consumers and car thieves alike.”
Theft rate: 4.28 per thousand
Even people who know nothing about cars consider Cadillac the cream of the luxury automobile sector. The STS, which was discontinued in 2011, was no exception, although some reviews suggested that it was long on interior luxury and short on performance. In 2009, General Motors manufactured 7,239 of these cars, and of that amount, 31 were stolen.
“Despite its low Total Car Score and aging design, Cadillac's STS represents an all-around American touring sedan while offering up a lesser-known, high potent stablemate, the Cadillac STS-V, which helped establish the STS among the ranks of segment leaders such as the BMW M5,” Brauer said. “It's no surprise to us that its luxury nameplate and numerous powertrain configurations make it an appealing target for thieves.”
Theft rate: 4.32 per thousand
The Nissan Motor Company is one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world. In 2011 they reported revenue almost equaling 8.8 trillion Japanese yen, or $113 billion. Part of their success can be attributed to the Infiniti M luxury vehicle, which includes the M35 and the M45, of which 6,243 were manufactured in 2009. 27 of those were stolen from the streets of the U.S.
“Infiniti's aging flagship, the M35/45, flew under the radar with a low Total Car Score, before its redesign in 2011,” Brauer said. “However, due to an attractive blend of luxury, performance and technology, it found itself the target of professional car thieves.”
Theft rate: 4.57 per thousand
The Chrysler 300 is a full-size, high-end sedan that debuted at the 2003 New York Auto Show. 31,287 were manufactured in 2009 and 143 were stolen.
“A stylish, boulevard cruiser or a HEMI-equipped tire-smoking performance sedan?” Brauer asked. “You can have both with the Chrysler 300, an attractive full-size sedan that offered a host of engines and was even available with all-wheel drive. The 300 enjoyed huge aftermarket support and its endless customization options surely lured in many an automotive car thief.”
Theft rate: 7.58 per thousand
The parent company of Rolls Royce and the producer of the iconic Mini, BMW produces some of the most powerful and highly envied cars on the road under its own brand. This includes the M5, a high-performance vehicle introduced at the 1984 Amsterdam Motor Show. Of the 264 units that were made in 2009, two were stolen.
“What's not to like about the BMW M5?” Brauer asked in an e-mail. “As one of the leaders in the luxury high performance segment, this generation of the M5 offers a monstrous V10 engine that can put a smile on just about every automotive enthusiast's face. Despite some disappointment with the M5's SMG transmission and a somewhat uncommunicative steering feel, the M5 is still a highly sought-after car - and there's no wonder it made the list.”
Theft rate: 8.81 per thousand
The Audi S8 is a full-size, four-door luxury sedan introduced in 1996. The car’s third generation was introduced in 2009, and in that year only 227 units were manufactured. As with the BMW M5, two of these were stolen, but since the production run was smaller it places higher on the list.
“The Audi S8, Audi's flagship performance sedan, is an impressive vehicle that, in this generation, combines the power of a Lamborghini-sourced V10 engine and the security of all-wheel drive, a rarity among the S8's competition,” Brauer said. “The S8 is a segment leader when it comes to balancing luxury, performance and price, making it a perfect candidate for any professional car thief's shopping list.”