The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released its vehicle theft data for 2009, a list which details just how often an automobile is stolen based on its overall production numbers. This type of data sorting can often lead to some interesting conclusions that aren't necessarily back up by statistically significant data, especially with regards to just how likely an automobile is to be a victim of theft relative to the number that are actually sold in a given 12-month period.
For example, the 2009 Toyota Camry leads the list (which takes into account only passenger vehicles, not light trucks) in terms of the total number of vehicles stolen. This makes sense to even the most casual reader, as the Camry was also the best-selling automobile on the market for that particular year. However, the 2009 Audi S8, a high-end luxury sedan that saw just 227 examples sold in the United States for the period reported on by the NHTSA had the highest "rate of theft" and was therefore awarded the top spot on the list. This is despite the fact that of those 227 potential theft targets, only two were actually absconded with by criminals. How many Camrys were spirited away in the dead of night for 2009? 781, or roughly 390 times as many.
So there you have it. By presenting its list in the order of "thefts per 1,000 vehicles produced," the NHTSA has managed to keep Audi S8 owners up at night. 8.81 thefts per 1,000 automobiles is the mathematical representation of two out of 227 sedans, but the number sounds much scarier than it actually is given the very small sample size. Other vehicles treated to the same type of statistical manipulation include the second-place Ford Mustang Shelby GT (8.61 per 1,000, or five out of 581 stolen), and the third-place BMW M5 (7.58 per 1,000 stolen).
According to the Detroit News the NHTSA also provided the more cheerful news that overall vehicle thefts were down for 2009 compared to the year before, dropping 21.3 percent to 1.33 per 1,000 automobiles. This is encouraging news even for Audi S8 drivers, and according to the Administration it indicates that improvements in anti-theft technology are beginning to make a more significant difference in the real world.
So where, exactly, does the 2009 Toyota Camry's total of 781 stolen automobiles rank it on the NHTSA list? How about 50th overall, with a theft rate of 1.74 per 1,000. Although Camry drivers might breath a sigh of relief at their relatively safe position - at least, from a certain perspective - those who own the 2009 Mercury Mariner are in a far better spot when it comes to finding themselves the victim of car thieves. Of the 25,682 Mariners sold in 2009, only two were taken without permission, giving the compact SUV a rate of 0.08 per 1,000 vehicles stolen.
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