The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said the types of cars being stolen abroad were the same as those being taken in the UK. "This indicates more than anything else that we have a more thriving theft business," said an SMMT spokesman.
The Eagle Star figures show that in England and Wales there are nearly 23 thefts per 1,000 cars - equivalent to one vehicle being stolen every minute. The overall UK figure is 22 cars stolen for every 1,000 in use - twice as bad as the next worst country, France. The theft rate for Scotland is 15.5 per 1,000, while the Northern Ireland rate is 14.6.
Car theft is lowest in Austria, where fewer than 1.5 per 1,000 were stolen in 1995. The next safest country is Switzerland, with three per 1,000.