“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,” CNBC’s Daniel Bukszpan reports.
While those statistics may or may not come as a surprise to you, did you know that a great deal of those cars were luxury vehicles?
“Luxury and premium models ... are typically stolen by professional car thieves for export, where they can fetch a premium over their domestic value,” Karl Brauer, CEO of the online car review aggregator TotalCarScore.com, told CNBC in an e-mail. “If they're not exported, then many are parted-out for sale on the black market.”
We all have a pretty good idea of what constitutes a "luxury" vehicle, right?
“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,” according to Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
Using National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and FBI data, writers at CNBC.com have put together the following list of the luxury cars thieves dig in a big way [all block quotes via Brauer & CNBC]:
10. Volvo V70
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.”
9. Audi A8
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.”
8. Chrysler Sebring
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.”
7. Chrysler Sebring Convertible
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.”
6. Mercedes-Benz CL-Class
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.”
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Photos courtesy Edmunds.com