NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Cadillac's Escalade EXT, a $53,700 luxury pickup with chrome trim, leather bucket seats and a jazzy stereo system, is the most attractive target for car thieves, followed by the Nissan Maxima, an insurance industry study said Tuesday.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said the Cadillac pickup truck is the nation's hottest target for thieves, based on theft-related insurance claims per 1,000 insured vehicles. The Escalade EXT had 20.2 claims for every 1,000 vehicles, making this the second straight year that the Escalade EXT topped the list.
The Maxima had 17.0 theft-related claims for every 1,000 vehicles, followed by the standard Escalade, the sport/utility version of the vehicle, which had 10.2 claims per 1,000 vehicles. The industry-wide average is 2.5 claims per 1,000 vehicles.
The Buick Le Sabre, the Buick Park Avenue and the Ford Taurus tied for the least attractive vehicles for thieves, with 0.5 theft claims per 1,000 vehicles.
The expensive wheels and rims on the Escalade and Escalade EXT, which can cost more than $10,000 by themselves, make it a target of thieves.
"Stolen Escalades are sometimes found resting on blocks without their wheels," said Kim Hazelbaker, senior vice president of the insurance group's Highway Loss Data Institute.
Hazelbaker said the Escalade's anti-theft system has not been certified by one industry body, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, because thieves have found a way to defeat it.
Headlights attract thieves
The Maxima's fancy high intensity headlights similarly attract the attention of thieves, according to the study.
"Investigators tell us the headlights are often stolen because they fit into earlier Maximas that were sold without such equipment," said Hazelbaker.
The 2002 and 2003 Maximas, which had the high-intensity lights, had 15.8 theft claims and 20.4 theft claims per 1,000 vehicles, while the 2001 models, which did not have those lights, had an industry-average 2.5 theft claims per 1,000.
Hazelbaker said a redesign of the 2004 Maxima may limit theft because the new lights no longer fit into the earlier models.
Nissan issued a statement saying it was working with police departments in large cities for the last year to try to combat the theft of the headlights.
"No other manufacturer here has done more than Nissan to help reduce thefts of these types of headlights," said the Japanese automaker in a statement.
"Theft of vehicles and vehicle parts is unfortunate and affects all vehicles. It is unfortunate that criminals in a few major metropolitan areas are targeting Xenon headlights."
Officials at Cadillac said the Escalade's ranking at the top of the rankings is a form of endorsement for the vehicle.
"While we regret any vehicle being stolen, this is clear evidence that the Cadillac Escalade is in high demand," said a statement from the company. "Thieves follow market trends and target the most popular vehicles because they offer the best market for stolen vehicle parts and illegal export to other countries."
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Cadillac said Escalade has a number of options available to deter or catch thieves.
The number of car theft claims per 1,000 insured vehicles fell by about 75 percent from 1986 to 1998, and has stayed near the current 2.5 per 1,000 vehicle level since then.
But the amount of the average claim rose steadily until 1998, when it too leveled off. The current average theft claim comes to $5,928.
GM (Research) stock fell Tuesday, hurt by news of an SEC probe of its pension accounting.
Nissan's (Research) U.S. shares edged higher.