With car theft on the rise in major metropolitan areas all across the country, manufacturers are developing newer and better ways of theft-proofing their vehicles. Steering wheel locks, GPS tracking, and the traditional alarm system are in common use to deter would-be carjackers. Though the Prius may provide ample fodder for late-night comedians, it scores major points in the theft-proofing department. A study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau found that the theft rate for the Toyota Prius (2008-2010 models) was one in 606, compared to one in 78 for all cars.
Chop Shops Stop Short
Most hybrid engines consist of custom-designed parts optimized by the manufacturer for that specific vehicle. The Prius is no exception. Generally speaking, the more versatile a part is, the more likely it is to be stolen. Prius engine parts are highly unique. The parts in a Prius are designed to work only in a Prius, and cannot be installed into another car. This limits the potential market for a stolen part, meaning car thieves selling to a chop shop are unlikely to get a good price for any Prius part. Few thieves would run the risk of getting caught in the act in order to steal something they cannot sell.
Demographics May Play A Role
The NICB study did not investigate the factors behind the lower rate of Prius theft, but a spokesperson for the NICB suggested that most Prius owners have above-average income, meaning the cars are likely to be kept in safer neighborhoods. Enhanced security measures such as better lighting, locked garages, and car alarms may also play a part, as all three are more common in high-income neighborhoods. High-income neighborhoods are also more likely to have some type of formal or informal Neighborhood Watch organization, where community members keep vigil to deter thieves and vandals.
Car Theft And The “Cool” Factor
The most frequently stolen vehicles in North America include the Honda Civic, the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, and the Acura Integra. These cars are easier to re-sell at higher margins. They are also frequently considered to be “cool” cars. The Toyota Prius though, the brunt of hundreds of jokes, is not. Car theft is about risk and payoff. The payoff must be at least as great as the risk in order to justify the theft. Most car thieves will target vehicles they find to be “cool” cars, and the Prius is not among them. The Toyota Prius may not have a deafening engine to strike fear into the hearts of passers-by. It may not be the least expensive consumer car on the market. It may not be as “cool” as a Nissan or a Honda. It is, however, the most theft-proof car available, and for that it is a serious contender in the hybrid marketplace.
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