Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Gone in Sixty Seconds...

Once upon a time, I used to pay attention to the lists of "most frequently stolen cars", partly because I parked a Porsche on the street in Atlanta every night, but mostly just out of curiosity. Back then, the top four or five invariably contained such unexpected luminaries as the Toyota Camry and the Honda Civic. This is because these cars, being terrifically common, were in demand with chop shops.

So it was kind of a surprise when this latest blurb from the Highway Loss Data Institute wafted over the digital transom. A top 10 full of luxury SUV's? The Infiniti G37 parked at #3? The Nissan Armada? I mean, I can't remember the last time I saw a Nissan Armada.

Did somebody at the AP misread a press release and this is a loss-rate list and not an absolute frequency list? (I mean, if somebody steals one Bugatti Veyron, it'd probably vault to the top of the theft-per-vehicle list...) Or have all the chop shops gone out of business in the last decade?

What am I missing?


wolfwalker said...

Whatever you're missing, I'm missing it too. That list makes no sense to me. In fact, if anything I'd have expected the little econoboxes to get more valuable after Lackwit's "Cash for Clunkers" program cleaned out the supply of decent used compacts like Corollas and Civics.

The only way the list makes any sense is if a lot of the vehicles on it have mutually-interchangeable parts, and they all happen to be parts that are currently in short supply because so many of the vehicles that had them got smunched. Remember, one of the primary features of CfC is that all the vehicles taken in had to be destroyed lock stock and barrel -- not stripped, not boneyarded, but destroyed in a crusher.

alath said...

My vote is for lame journos who don't know the difference. Way back when, I was a newspaper intern and my head used to melt on a daily basis trying to explain distinctions like, annual deficit vs. national debt, etc. Once they ran an editorial which "reasoned" that since 30% of truck drivers killed in accidents had drugs in their system, 30% of the truck drivers on the road are stoned out of their gourds. I tried to explain selection bias to them, but all I got was a bunch of blank stares.

So, no, actually I would be astounded if they knew the difference between a rate and an absolute number.

staghounds said...

That has to be a rate. I see three or eight car thefts a week, it's a smallish city with LOTS of SUVs on the road.

I notice about half of the type of car stolen. I'd estimate that the "newish SUV" category isn't one in forty, if that. Probably only a third of the car thefts are graded at "over $1000", probably only a third of those at "over 10,000".

I have NEVER noticed even ONE of this list.

To be fair, I've never noticed one of the least likely, either.

Most of the cars I see stolen are low end, well worn, working people's cars. Granted right now I'm in Juvenile Court, but the same was true when I was in Sessions.

I thought maybe this is a list of NEW cars, but the payouts are well below the new car prices.

I'm mystified.

Bram said...

I heard many car thieves cannot drive a car with a manual transmission. That may have saved your tuetonic go-carts.

Anonymous said...

" heard many car thieves cannot drive a car with a manual transmission"

Have any idea how hard it is to get a manual tranny on a nice car these days.

It's not even a question of beating up the sales guy - they basically don't make 'em.

(Except for certain higher end cars, and even then, try to get a manual BMW station wagon...)

Anonymous said...

On an article I read yesterday (can't recal the link) I remember seeing a statement that this was for 2007-2009 model years. Which explains all the confusion

peter o

perlhaqr said...

Remember, one of the primary features of CfC is that all the vehicles taken in had to be destroyed lock stock and barrel -- not stripped, not boneyarded, but destroyed in a crusher.

Not quite accurate. CfC demanded that the engines be destroyed, but I saw quite a few such vehicles at the Pick and Pull with glassed engines and official stickers saying you can't get parts off the block, but with the rest of the vehicle available for parts.

There was a reduced life-cycle for the carcasses though. They had to be crushed after a month of salvage, I believe.

(None of which is intended as any sort of defence of that jack-assed program. I simply strive for informational accuracy.)

Tam said...


"On an article I read yesterday (can't recal the link) I remember seeing a statement that this was for 2007-2009 model years. Which explains all the confusion"

I went and looked at the raw data in .pdf form over at the IIHS/HLDI website.

Not only is it for '07-'09 model years, but it is also, as I suspected, rate and not absolute numbers. Out of every thousand '07-'09 Nissan Armadas, more get stolen than out of every thousand Civics. But there are a LOT more Civics stolen.

John Richardson said...

I guess I'm in the safe category since I drive a Honda Pilot. It was listed one the least likely to be stolen. Hmmm.

At to "Gone in 60 Seconds", the original movie was much better IMHO than the Nicholas Cage remake.

Aaron said...

Understand that to your average journo the SUVs are the root of all automotive evil.

Here they're even responsible for causing crime by being stolen so often.

Is there anything terrible an SUV can't do?

John Stephens said...

"I can't remember the last time I saw a Nissan Armada."

That's because someone stole them all!

staghounds said...

If a CfC car went to the crusher with valuable non-engine parts still on it, an honest mistake was made.

James family outpost, Iowa. said...

Large & high end SUV's command the best price south of the border, where some of the stolen vehicles end up. Not just in Mexico, but all over S. America. Sheesh, don't you people watch 60 minutes? They said so, so it must be true.

The Raving Prophet said...

I wonder how these vehicles are being stolen.

Modern vehicles are pretty theft-proof. Unless you have the key, getting it running is really difficult. The thief would either need to carjack you, somehow arrange for a key programmed to the vehicle, or you left the keys in it (you moron).

Around here, most thefts seem to be of the last type when it is a newer vehicle. The owner leaves it running while he/she goes in to pay for gas and pick up a coffee, and the thief gets a nice SUV with the key.

Tam said...

I wonder how many of those stolen Escalades were found torched in the sticks, having been "stolen" from an owner who was way upside down in their McMansion and maxed out on the cards...

DJ said...

"What am I missing?"

Nothing that I can see.

But, remember, statistics show that everyone who eats vegetables eventually dies.

staghounds said...

As though the AP reporter actually READ the release.

Yes, fraudulent theft is a crime. And I very seldom see forced enry or hot wire thefts, almost always they are warm-ups, keys left in, or keys stolen.

I had one where the same car was stolen TWICE. Once out of the driveway, found 2 days later and restored to the owner. Before the owner could get the lock changed, stolen out of the driveway again- fifteen minutes after it was taken back!

Not fraudulent either, second thief was caught driving, and admitted both.

And if I were a car thief, outside the dry cleaner or coffee place in a good neighborhood is where I'd wait. Sheesh.

One thing I see from time to time is 2 AM car burglars, they just go from car to car in a subdivision. Guns, laptops, wallets, purses, cds, dope, telephones- when their backpacks get full, they are done for the night. If confronted, drop the loot and run. There are usually ten or twelve victims, loss usually runs around $8000, net to the thief about $600 or so. Not bad for a couple of hours work. We seldom catch one.


Tam said...

"One thing I see from time to time is 2 AM car burglars, they just go from car to car in a subdivision..."

When I parked my cars on the street in ATL (first the Porsche and then the Fiero,) I kept nothing in the car. Not a dime, not a scrap of paper. Both cars had removable faceplate stereos, which I used religiously. I then left the doors unlocked.

Why should I risk some hobo smashing an $80 or $100 window to find out that there's nothing of value in the car?

About once every six months or so, I'd come out and find a door ajar or the glove box open.

Better than finding a spray of broken glass next to the car.

Ruth said...

I had much the same reaction to that article, I used to drive a '91 Civic, that I actually had PARTS STOLEN OFF OF while sitting on the street in front of my house in a decent neighborhood only four years ago! I came out one morning and discovered I was missing a tire (and rim), the passenger side (front) corner marker, and a taillight. I assume the only reason I didn't loose the whole car was thanks to the massive rust holes on the body making it look like a less than steller subject to chop (they were wrong btw, when I sold the vehicle 2 years ago the guy I sold it to was amazed at the lack of rust on the frame, he's still driving it today).

Bubblehead Les. said...

After studying the list, I realized that those of us who are way over the BMI for height and weight can actually fit into most of the Top Ten, while I'd struggle to get into some of those Econoboxes on the Bottom Ten. Now if Government Motors would only bring back the '72 Cadillac Sedan Deville.... sometimes, Size Does Matter! ; )

Will said...

About six years ago at a San Jose tow yard, one of the tow truck drivers was stealing fresh impound cars and taking them to Mexico. Most of them would be there for 30 days, so not missed immediately. He goofed on one that wasn't a 30 day hold. Think there was a chase near the border. They didn't catch him then, but they figured out who it was. I think in some cases he was actually using his company truck to take them south. Who looks at tow trucks? Around here, it's normal to see 3 or 4 in view at any one time.

LauraB said...

I can recall back in the VA-HI heydays that spree of window breakage in ATL. Notes left in windows, "Car unlocked, please don't break glass".

The thing here in small town TX these days? Gas siphoning. Yes, even from the DPS car. Brave sumbitch, that.