The most stolen car in America? Yeah, it's got a Hemi…

Car theft can seem like a very retro, 1980s type of crime, to the point that we often get a mental image of a thief in acid-washed jeans ripping apart the steering column of a diesel Mercury Topaz. The realities of car thefts have changed over the past 30 years. These days, thieves rarely bother with MacGyver-style car-starting methods — they either clone the digital signal from the key fob or they push the car away using another car once they pop the shifter into neutral. If they want a car bad enough, they’ll come with a tow truck and pick it up. And thieves’ tastes in cars has changed as well.

The Highway Loss Data Institute has compiled a list of most likely new vehicles to be stolen from the 2016 through the 2018 model years, and while there are some surprises, the list is largely logical and predictable when it comes to certain trends.

First of all, the fact that the Dodge Charger Hemi and Challenger SRT Hellcat top the list is not a huge surprise — we could have told you that these are prime targets for thieves even without this list. There are a few reasons for this: They’re pricey, they have big engines, they have parts that are in demand and these cars are easy to roll away by hand once thieves get inside and put them into neutral. Different flavors of the Charger and Challenger, as well as their Chrysler 300 sibling,  appear several times on this list.

But there are a few other surprises: There are that many Infiniti Q50s out there? How are thieves even finding them? It’s also a much more modern car underneath than the Charger, so what’s its excuse in getting boosted so often?

Another surprise is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. First of all, a big percentage of these are garaged, we would surmise, and they have a reputation for being difficult to steal and keep due to all the electronics and tracking tech. These thefts are probably happening either via a tow truck or some other creative method where the thieves get their hands on actual keys from an owner.

“The models most likely to be stolen tend to be powerful, pricey or pickups, but vehicle theft is also a crime of opportunity,” notes HLDI senior vice president Matt Moore. “Better security features on all vehicles would be the best way to address the problem.”

Thieves also seem to be keen on large pickup trucks: The Chevy Silverado appears three times on this list, and the GMC Sierra is also up there in the top five.

Thieves aren’t too keen on Teslas or 3-Series BMWs.

When it comes to least likely new vehicles likely to be stolen, the list also packs a few surprises. For a popular car in the marketplace, the BMW 3-Series tops the list of the least likely vehicles to be stolen.

“Somewhat puzzlingly, the car that tops the list of least stolen vehicles is also a midsize luxury sedan, the two-wheel-drive BMW 3 series,” the Institute notes. “It had just one claim for whole-vehicle theft in 104,901 insured vehicle years. An insured vehicle year is one vehicle insured for one year.”

Good news for 3-Series owners, we guess, but for a relatively popular non-electric luxury car, it’s also a little baffling. Immediately next on the list is the Tesla Model S — these tend to be garaged and plugged in at night, so it’s no wonder that they’re difficult to get near. A large gang of GM-produced SUVs are also unpopular with thieves, as are a number of Subarus.

“Absent from the most-stolen list is any version of the Cadillac Escalade, which previously dominated HLDI’s rankings of vehicles poplar with thieves,” the Institute adds. “Part of the reason is that the large luxury SUV now has more competition in that category, including from the Infiniti QX80 and the Land Rover Range Rover, vehicles that are now among the most stolen.”

“Escalade owners are also likely benefiting from enhanced security features that go beyond the ignition immobilizers that most of today’s vehicles have in order to prevent them from being started without a proper key. Standard immobilizers weren’t enough to prevent the Escalade from being frequently stolen, so Cadillac added more antitheft features beginning with the 2015 model year. They include glass breakage sensors, motion detectors and an inclination sensor that triggers an alarm if someone tries to take the wheels off, tow the vehicle or lift it onto a flatbed truck.”

View the full report here.

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