Old Vauxhall Astras have become the model of choice for Britain's car thieves as criminals increasingly target poorly secured vehicles more than 10 years old, a study has found.
Cars made by Vauxhall occupy nine of the top 10 positions in the "stolen vehicles league", seven of them different types of Astra mark two. The only other make of car in the top 10 is the Ford Orion, 1987–89, which was second in the most "at risk" category.
Greatly improved security, including engine immobilisers, means older cars are now up to nine times more likely to be stolen than new ones, the Home Office's 2002 car and bike theft index showed. Cars registered in 2001 had a theft rate of just three cars per 1,000, but those between 12 and 13 years old had a rate of 29 per 1,000. During 2001, there were 27 million registered cars in England, Wales and Scotland, of which 341,674 (1.3 per cent) were stolen – a decrease of 386 stolen vehicles on the 2000 figure. The Vauxhall Astra Mark Two SX (1990-92) was the most vulnerable vehicle, with 117 out of every 1,000 being stolen.
Motorbikes are nearly twice as likely to be stolen as cars. The 1999 Piaggio 100cc scooter and 1995 Kawasaki 101-125cc motorbike topped the list.
John Denham, a Home Office minister, said the fitting of immobilisers to cars registered from 1995 onwards appeared to have made the difference.