Thieves go for the family car

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CAR THIEVES have stopped targeting high-performance cars, so-called 'hot hatches', in favour of sedate family saloons, according to Scotland Yard.

One effect could be a reduction in the high insurance premiums for cars such as Ford Sierra Cosworths, Volkswagen Golf GTis and Ford Escort XR3is, which were previously prime targets for thieves.

Instead, as insurance companies alter their calculations to reflect the new trend, the family motorist could find the cost of his policy rising.

Scotland Yard's stolen vehicle squad, which collates national information, is finding that the trend is widespread. Improved locks and other security measures on 'hot hatches' - often a compulsory part of insurance cover - have helped prompt the change.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: 'Family saloons with C, D and E registration plates are easier for thieves to dispose of. They have targeted that market because people don't have too much money to spend. They are looking for a good, reliable car, so that is what is being taken.'

Det Chief Insp Kelvin Roberts, of the West Midlands Stolen Vehicle Squad, said: 'Thieves have priced themselves out of the fast-car market. Buyers are not interested because they cannot afford the insurance.'

Last year, insurance companies paid out pounds 626m in claims for car thefts, 36 per cent more than in the previous year.

Richard Hill, chief executive of The Insurance Service, said his company avoided insuring high- performance cars. 'We are aware there is a displacement into the family-saloon market,' he added. 'If it is a serious trend, I would be concerned. The cost of insurance reflects the risk.'

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, the trade association for companies handling 95 per cent of UK company insurance business, said: 'If thieves go for the family saloon, as the insurers who are taking the risk we are going to have to start looking at premiums and whether security measures should be mandatory for insuring these cars.'

But 'hot-hatch' owners should not feel complacent. The spokesman said: 'We are talking about professional rackets where the identity of the car is changed and sold on. The moron element who take cars to drive them fast, then dump them, is still there.'