Sport-utility vehicles are very popular with American consumers and it seems thieves can’t resist them, either.

Sport-utility vehicles are very popular with American consumers and it seems thieves can’t resist them, either. According to the statistics for 2000-2002 from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, five of the top 10 vehicles stolen or broken into are SUVs.

The organisation compared insurance claims with the overall number of insured vehicles to get a percentage of likelihood that a vehicle will be targeted.

Top of the list was the Cadillac Escalade, a vehicle favoured by athletes and rap stars. Kim Hazelbaker, senior vice president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said the Escalade, which sells for about R407 000, had 10,3 theft claims per 1 000 vehicles over a year, compared with an average of 2,6.

Hazelbaker said the institute believed that thieves were after the extra equipment often added to Escalades. Many have aluminium wheels and multi-screen DVD players. The Escalade also has an anti-theft ignition immobiliser, which automatically disables the engine, but does not seem to stop thieves.

"The Escalade's theft losses are the highest even though it's equipped with a standard anti-theft ignition immobiliser. These immobilisers have reduced thefts of other vehicles, but we don't know why they don't seem to be effective for the Escalade," said Hazelbaker.

The Acura Integra topped the list last year, but was redesigned in 2002 and renamed the RSX. The RSX does not seem to have the same high rate of theft claims as the Integra. "Theft investigators believe the old Integra was targeted by car thieves for its parts, including the engine, which then were sold to people who modify Honda Civics. These components are interchangeable between the RSX and the new Civic. We'll have to wait and see whether the RSX becomes a target," Hazelbaker said.

The Dodge Stratus was second on the 2003 list, followed by Mitsubishi Mirage, the Jeep Wrangler and the Lincoln Navigator.