October 20, 2004


Escalade EXT and Maxima have highest theft rate in U.S.

Arlington, Virginia – The 2002-2003 Cadillac Escalade EXT luxury pickup, and the 2002-2003 Nissan Maxima luxury sedan, have the highest theft claim rates among newer passenger vehicles, according to the latest insurance theft loss results for passenger vehicles 1 to 3 years old published by the U.S. Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). The Escalade and Maxima have theft claim rates 7 to 8 times the average for all cars.

“This is the second year in a row that an Escalade is among the vehicles most likely to have a theft claim,” says Kim Hazelbaker, HLDI senior vice president. “Both the Escalade pickup and SUV also top the list of vehicles with the most expensive theft claims, indicating they are top targets for thieves.”

The Escalade’s theft losses are the highest even though this vehicle is equipped with a standard antitheft ignition immobilizer. An immobilizer is built into a vehicle’s electronic ignition system and is supposed to prevent the vehicle from being started without the proper key.

Thieves go after custom wheels: “One reason the Escalade is a top target is that some are equipped with expensive accessories like custom wheels,” Hazelbaker says. “Stolen Escalades are sometimes found resting on blocks without their wheels.”

Some custom chrome wheel and tire packages can cost more than $10,000.

The Escalade’s antitheft immobilizer system is an early version that may not be as effective as the systems in other vehicles. The Insurance Bureau of Canada doesn’t certify the Escalade’s immobilizer as meeting the Bureau’s antitheft standard because thieves may have found a way to defeat it. Such immobilizers also don’t meet antitheft requirements in many other countries.

The Maxima’s theft claim frequency increased dramatically after Nissan began equipping this car with expensive high-intensity discharge headlights as standard equipment in 2002. While the Maxima’s theft claim rate was 8 times higher in 2003, compared with 2001, the average cost of each claim went down. This indicates that, in many cases, the stolen cars were recovered with damage or that items such as the headlights were stolen from parked cars.

“Investigators tell us the high-intensity discharge headlights are often stolen because they fit into earlier Maximas that were sold without such lights,” Hazelbaker says. “This car was redesigned for 2004, and its new headlight assemblies don’t fit previous generation models. It’s too early to tell if the 2004s will still have a theft problem.”

HLDI results are the only reported theft results based on the number of insured vehicles. Information on theft losses published by the National Insurance Crime Bureau and CCC Information Services doesn’t take into account how many of each vehicle are insured, so the most popular vehicles on the road tend to top these organizations’ lists of most-stolen vehicles. In contrast, HLDI identifies vehicles with the worst theft losses by counting the number of claims by make and model relative to the number of each make and model insured, indicating which vehicles are most likely to be targets.

Since 1980, overall theft claim frequencies have declined while average insurance payments per theft claim have increased. But these trends have leveled off in recent years.

HIGHEST THEFT CLAIM FREQUENCIES, 2001-03 MODEL PASSENGER VEHICLES
SIZE/TYPE Claim Frequency Average loss payment per claim Average payment per insured vehicle year
Cadillac Escalade EXT (2002-03) Large luxury pickup 20.2 $14,939 $302
Nissan Maxima (2002-03) Midsize 4-door car 17.0 $4,126 $70
Cadillac Escalade (2002-03) Large luxury SUV 10.2 $15,703 $160
Dodge Stratus/Chrysler Sebring Midsize 4-door car 8.3 $5,483 $54
Dodge Intrepid Large 4-door car 7.9 $5,394 $43
AVERAGE ALL CARS 2.5 $5,928 $15
Note: Claim frequencies are per 1,000 insured vehicle years.
LOWEST THEFT CLAIM FREQUENCIES, 2001-03 MODEL PASSENGER VEHICLES
SIZE/TYPE Claim Frequency Average loss payment per claim Average payment per insured vehicle year
Buick LeSabre Large 4-door car 0.5 $3,201 $1
Buick Park Avenue Large 4-door car 0.5 $5,098 $3
Ford Taurus Large station wagon 0.5 $4,920 $3
Buick Rendezvous 4WD (2002-03) Midsize SUV 0.7 $1,601 $1
Saturn LW Midsize station wagon 0.7 $2,075 $2
AVERAGE ALL CARS 2.5 $5,928 $15
Note: Claim frequencies are per 1,000 insured vehicle years.

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