NEW YORK — The Cadillac Escalade, a top pick of the rich and famous ranging from Hollywood celebrities to Wall Street executives, is also the favorite choice of thieves.
The luxury SUV, which starts at more than $63,000, is the most likely vehicle to be targeted by crooks, according to a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute. The study, based on insurance claims made for model year 2008 through 2010 vehicles, showed that the Escalade is six times more likely to be hit by thieves than the average vehicle, and its overall theft losses are more than 10 times as large. The rankings are based on vehicles that were stolen, had parts such as stereo systems taken or had other property inside the car snatched. Matt Moore, a vice president at the institute, says the Escalade gets hit more often because “It’s so wildly popular as far as pop culture goes. Watching the TV you see professional athletes coming in and out of them and other celebrities too. It’s a status symbol.” General Motors Co. said it’s trying to make the Escalade harder to steal. The SUV currently includes a system to prevent the vehicles from being hotwired and a steering column lock that makes it more difficult for thieves to push the vehicles away or load them on to flat-bed trucks. In addition, the 2012 Escalade will include sensors that set off an alarm when they detect a change in angle that would occur if the vehicle is being towed or being jacked up, along with sensors that sound alarms when windows are broken, a new wheel lock system and an improved steering column lock, GM said. HLDI, which is part of the Arlington, Va.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, calculated the rankings based on the number of thefts per insured vehicle on the road. The data doesn’t include uninsured vehicles or those covered by the 20 percent of insurance companies that don’t report their numbers to the institute. A total of 10.8 claims were filed for every 1,000 insured Escalades, resulting in average loss payments of $10,555 per claim by insurance companies to the affected drivers, the study said. The Escalade’s ranking isn’t anything new. When combined, the four versions of the SUV have ranked at the top of the list for several years, the group says. Pickup trucks are also a favorite of thieves, taking the next four spots in the rankings, including the Ford F-250 crew cab four-wheel drive, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cab, the Ford F-450 crew cab four-wheel drive and the GMC Sierra 1500 crew cab. Crew cabs are pickups with a second row of seats. Moore thinks that many of the pickup theft claims resulted from equipment or other items being stolen from truck beds while the vehicles were parked at work sites. The Chrysler 300 sedan was the sixth most likely vehicle to be targeted and the only car on the list, with 7.1 claims filed for every 1,000 insured cars and an average loss payment of $5,509, the group said. The vehicle least likely to be hit by thieves was the Audi A6 four-wheel drive, a luxury sedan. But its average loss payment per claim was $16,882. That’s 60 percent higher than that of the Escalade, according to the study. The A6 was followed by the Mercury Mariner, a small SUV, and the Chevrolet Equinox, a midsize SUV. The average vehicle in the study had 1.7 claims reported per 1,000 insured vehicles and an average loss payment per claim of $6,767, the study said.