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Prius Spared by Thieves Shunning Fuel Economy

Prius Spared by Thieves Shunning Fuel Economy in Hunt for Parts
Hybrid cars like the Prius, introduced in the U.S. in 2000, are marketed as being among the most fuel-efficient vehicles. Photographer: Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg

Toyota Motor Corp.’s hybrid Prius is less likely to be stolen in the U.S. compared with cars of a similar age as thieves look for parts that can be used in more-common vehicles, according to a trade group.

One in 606 of the 2008 to 2010 model-year Prius cars had been stolen as of the end of June, compared with 1 in 78 of all vehicles taken for those model years, the National Insurance Crime Bureau said today in a report.

“It’s a one-model car; the parts on it won’t fit anything else but a Prius,” John Abounader, executive director of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators, said in a phone interview. “If you use a Camry, for instance, the engine might fit in another car. On a Prius, the engine is so different because they’re hybrid.”

Hybrid cars like the Prius, introduced in the U.S. in 2000, are marketed as being among the most fuel-efficient vehicles. Thieves tend to target models that have been around longer because there is a bigger market for parts. Honda Motor Co.’s 1994 Accord was the most frequently stolen car in the U.S. in 2011, according to a separate NICB report. The 1998 Honda Civic was second.

“It could be that auto thieves are going to steal something for which there is generally a market or a need for the parts,” Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the NICB, said in a phone interview. Parts for Hondas or Nissans “are much more valuable because people that own those things tend to keep them a long time.”

California had the most stolen Prius models, with 1,062 thefts. Florida came in second, with 127, followed by New York, with 111. The hybrid became the best-selling vehicle line this year in California, which increased the number of cars available for theft.

The recovery rate for a stolen Prius is 96.7 percent, according to the NICB report.

“As more and more of them survive the marketplace and are on the road, if the sales really start taking off more and more, we may see those numbers come more in line with what we’re finding with the rest of the vehicles,” Scafidi said.

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