Dodge Charger, F-250 popular with car theives

img-1The most theft-prone vehicle in America might be the Dodge Charger. Or it might be the Ford F-250 pickup truck.

Those are the contradictory conclusions of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the insurance industry-funded Highway Loss Data Institute.

Still, the government agency and private group agree that the theft of late-model vehicles is on a rapid decline in the United States. One reason: automakers’ increasing use of ignition immobilizers, which stop thieves from hot-wiring cars. Nearly 90 percent of 2012 models are equipped with them.

In a report released on Monday, NHTSA said the car stolen most often during the 2011 calendar year was the Charger, with 4.8 thefts for every 1,000 cars produced in 2011. It was followed by the Mitsubishi Galant, Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Impala and Chevrolet HHR among vehicles with more than 5,000 units produced that year.

Pickup trucks took the top five places in dueling rankings released today by HLDI, an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In first place was the Ford F-250 crew-cab with four-wheel drive, followed by the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Chevrolet Avalanche 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 crew, and Ford F-350 crew with four-wheel drive. The rankings cover model years 2010 to 2012.

The Cadillac Escalade, long the most theft-prone vehicle according to HLDI, dropped to sixth place after GM reworked the SUV to thwart thieves.

“General Motors has put a lot of effort into new antitheft technology, so that may help explain the decline,” Matt Moore, vice president of the group, said in a statement.

Different methodology

The two reports produced separate results because of differences in methodology, Moore said during an interview. His group bases its rankings on a database of insurance claims, while NHTSA counts thefts reported to police.

Moore said large pickup trucks are also particularly prone to theft claims because owners can recoup the cost of equipment stolen from the flatbed.

Still, the two groups can agree on some of their findings — including that the Charger is stolen more frequently than most vehicles. While the muscle car did not make the top 10 most stolen models according to HLDI, the group found that it had 3.5 theft claims per 1,000 years of insurance coverage, or triple the average model.

Experts are not exactly sure what makes the Charger so popular with thieves, although the car’s ample horsepower might be part of the equation.

“If I were a thief I might be able to answer that better,” Moore said during a phone interview. “They’re powerful vehicles,” he added.

NHTSA says its preliminary data show that model-year 2011 vehicles were stolen that calendar year at rates 91 percent lower than the year before.

Steep decline?

In 2011, there were only 0.1 thefts for every thousand vehicles produced, down from 1.17 thefts per thousand cars in 2010. To compile the report, which contains statistics from 226 vehicle lines, NHTSA compared vehicle theft data from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center with production data reported to the EPA.

NHTSA says its latest findings mark a record decline in the theft rate. NHTSA data show that the nation’s vehicle theft rate has declined by an average of 13 percent each year since 2006, which was the last time the rate increased.

Terri Miller, executive director of Help Eliminate Auto Thefts, or H.E.A.T., a public-private partnership dedicated to the prevention of vehicle theft, was skeptical of NHTSA’s conclusion.

She said auto theft is dropping, but she would be surprised if it is happening as quickly as the report indicates.

“It seems like a very dramatic decrease,” Miller said.

BMW extends global sales lead over Audi, Mercedes in June

img-2Global sales of BMW Group’s core brand rose faster in June than at Audi and Mercedes-Benz as demand from China and the United States helped the premium car maker to extend a lead over the two rivals in the first six months of the year.

Sales at the brand were up 9 percent last month to 153,075, the group said today, compared with growth of 5 percent to 140,300 and 8 percent to 131,609 at Audi and Mercedes respectively.

Six-month sales at BMW brand rose 8 percent to 804,000 cars, expanding the lead over runner-up Audi to 24,000 from 11,000 after five months. Half-year sales at Audi and Mercedes rose 6 percent each to 780,500 and 694,000 respectively.

“BMW has stronger momentum than Audi and Mercedes, that won’t change in the second half,” said Hanover-based NordLB analyst Frank Schwope. “Design of their cars has improved and they’re ahead on fuel-saving technologies.”

Tesla to join Nasdaq 100 as Oracle defects to NYSE

img-3Tesla Motors Inc., the world’s best-performing automotive stock this year, will join the Nasdaq-100 Index next week, filling the spot vacated by Oracle Corp., which is moving to the New York Stock Exchange.

The electric-car maker will be added to the gauge, which tracks the biggest companies on the Nasdaq, before the start of trading on July 15, Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. said in a statement Monday. Oracle, which last month said it will join the NYSE, is the biggest company to jump between the competing exchanges.

Shares of Tesla, the carmaker headed by billionaire Elon Musk, have more than tripled this year as the popularity of its new Model S sedan helped the company turn its first quarterly profit. Gaining entry to benchmarks tracked by investors is attractive to public companies because it provides a guaranteed shareholder base.

“It’s a coming of age, recognition that a company has market

Toyota Camry, Honda Civic inventories rise, report says

img-4The Toyota Camry and the Honda Civic, the top-selling mid-size and compact cars in the U.S., face risks of reduced production as inventories of the models rise, an RBC Capital Markets report said.

Toyota’s Camry exceeded its seasonal historical average inventory by more than 15 days supply in June and Honda carried about 25 days more Civics than usual, Joseph Spak, a New York-based analyst for RBC, said in today’s report. Camry and Civic were the only models identified as at risk for reduced output among 16 of the top-selling vehicles in the U.S. market. General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC all added U.S. market share in the first six months of 2013, the first time that all three gained first-half share in 20 years. Models such as GM’s Chevrolet Cruze compact and Ford’s Fusion mid-size sedan, leading Detroit’s most competitive set of passenger cars in

Fiat exercises option to buy additional 3.3% of Chrysler shares

img-5Fiat today exercised an option to raise its stake in Chrysler by 3.3 percent.

The move is part of CEO Sergio Marchionne’s step-by-step purchases intended to lead to full control of Chrysler and the creation of a merged company that would be able to compete better with industry leaders Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen.

Fiat has been exercising options since mid-2012 to buy holdings of about 3.3 percent from the VEBA, a medical-benefits trust for the U.S. carmaker’s retirees.

Including today’s purchase, Fiat has exercised three of its six-monthly options, increasing its stake to 68.49 percent.

Fiat has said it wants full control of Chrysler, which would give it access to some of Chrysler’s cash flow for investments in new models.

Chrysler has become Fiat’s most reliable profit generator as the Italian company struggles to end losses in Europe that totaled 704 million euros ($903 million) in 2012 amid a