The Ford F-series pickup truck was the most popular target for thieves in 2018, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, as the number of auto thefts ticked up slightly compared with the year before.
The Ford truck dominated a list of the top 10 most frequently stolen vehicles in Canada, with various models taking up eight spots. The 2007 Ford F-350 came in at number one nationally, and Alberta was the leading province for thefts of the F-series.
All of the Ford pickups in the top 10 were introduced before Canada implemented legislation in 2007 requiring auto makers to install new anti-theft technology.
“Before that, you could start a vehicle with a screwdriver or you could hot wire it,” said Bryan Gast, national director of investigative services with the IBC, an association representing private insurers. Newer vehicles are equipped with a device called an immobilizer, which does not start the engine unless it recognizes a computer chip in the ignition key.
The technology has led to a decline in the number of auto thefts in Canada, which are down 38 per cent in the past decade, according to IBC.
In 2018, auto thefts increased by 1.2 per cent to 86,132 compared to 2017. Thefts in Ontario and Manitoba were up 17 per cent and 11 per cent respectively, while they fell 14 per cent and 7 per cent in British Columbia and Alberta.
IBC estimates that auto theft costs Canadians nearly $1-billion annually, including $542-million for insurers to fix or replace stolen vehicles.
The Ford F-350 truck was also a favourite for thieves in 2017, when it held five of the top 10 spots nationally. “They’re big, they’re durable,” Mr. Gast said. “They’re a good vehicle.”
That means there may be a lot of older models still driven in Canada, despite their age. “My guess is partly numbers, so more of them were sold, and partly longevity,” said George Iny, executive director of the Automobile Protection Association, in reference to the Ford truck’s popularity with thieves. “People recognize that as a truck that’s easy to steal, and it’s one they can see.” Previously, the Honda Civic was frequently targeted by car thieves, but there are fewer older makes on the road today.
Ford Canada declined to comment specifically on IBC’s list, but a spokesperson said F-Series models have been top-selling trucks for more than 50 years.
Older vehicles are likely stolen to be sold for parts, Mr. Gast said, or used to commit other crimes.
Newer cars are still attractive to criminals, even if the vehicles are harder to steal. The 2018 Lexus RX350 was the seventh-most-stolen vehicle in Canada, according to IBC.
High-end SUVs and pickups are usually targeted by organized crime rings and shipped overseas, where they’re resold for profit. Mr. Gast said these vehicles are typically taken in Ontario and Quebec, transported by rail to Vancouver and ultimately shipped to China. A stolen Mercedes GLS 45 can fetch twice its Canadian market price overseas.
Sophisticated criminals have figured out ways around anti-theft technology. Many newer vehicles rely on key fobs that transmit a wireless signal to start the engine. Thieves, however, can intercept and reroute a signal from a key fob in close proximity – one hanging inside the front entrance of a house, for example--and use it to start a vehicle in the driveway.
“For some groups of organized criminals, this is their big business,” Mr. Gast said.