Originally created 08/04/06

Thieves love small racers, big SUVs



DETROIT - Small cars that can be chopped into parts and sold for use by street racers dominated the list of the most-stolen autos in the U.S. last year, but high-price cars and expensive sport utility vehicles also ranked high, according to a report released Tuesday.

Leading the way was the 2001 BMW M-Series Roadster, which was stolen at a rate of one for every 200 on the road, according to the Chicago-based CCC Information Services Inc., an industry group that tracks theft and vehicle damage.

Six of the top 10 most-stolen cars were models of the Acura Integra, which has a powerful engine that easily can be swapped into a lighter Honda Civic, making it a quick street racer, said Jeanene O'Brien, who analyzes the data for CCC.

The Acura models in the top 10 are from the mid-to-late 1990s through 2001. The 2004 and 2005 Suzuki Aerio, another small car with a powerful engine, appeared in the No. 11 and 12 slots almost from nowhere.

"That's where you see the whole tuner illegal street racing thing coming out," she said.

Such thefts are mainly in coastal states, where illegal street racing is more popular, she said. The resale value of the parts is often far more than the value of the car as a whole.

Other limited-edition, high-performance specialty models such as the 2002 Audi S4 and the 2004 Mercury Marauder, a large sedan, also made the top 10, as did the 2000 Jaguar XJR luxury car.

Several high-end luxury SUVs made it into the top 25. The car-market segments with the most stolen vehicles were the full-size SUV and the heavy-duty station wagon, Ms. O'Brien said. These include the 1998 and 1995 Land Rover Range Rover, and the 2002 and 2005 Cadillac Escalade, the latter of whose wheels and tires can cost $10,000.