A Look at Thefts of an American Automotive Icon

TGR Staff

For over 25 years, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has published Hot Wheels, an annual report of America's 10 most stolen vehicles. While popular expectations have been that newer, more expensive vehicles would top the list, the data has repeatedly shown quite the opposite, with older, less flashy models topping the list.
As a take-off from our traditional Hot Wheels report, beginning with this release, the NICB will periodically issue a special report-Hot Wheels Classics-focusing on a specific class of vehicle or make and model. For the debut report, NICB selected the iconic Ford Mustang. Since it was first introduced to the public at the 1964 New York World's Fair, nearly eight and a half million Mustangs have been sold, making it one of the most popular and enduring vehicles to ever grace a dealer's showroom.
Unfortunately, over the years many Mustang owners have had to deal with the theft of their pony cars. Aside from the hassle of losing their transportation and all that entails, a Mustang loss can be overwhelming given that many owners form an emotional bond with their machines. You would probably have to own one to understand that. NICB reviewed Mustang theft data from 1964-2011 and identified 611,093 theft records. Although data for all years are available, confidence in pre-1981 records is low due to the inconsistency in reporting protocols and vehicle identification number (VIN) systems in use prior to 1981.
Since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration required VIN standardization beginning with the 1981 model year, that year is the oldest reliable data used in this report. Data prior to 1981 is provided for information only. Overall, from 1981 through 2011, a total of 411,155 Mustangs were reported stolen. The most thefts occurred in 1981 (20,708) and the fewest in 2011 (4,347).
Thefts vs. Sales
During the 30-year period from 1981-2011, a total of 4,110,110 Mustangs were sold in the United States. However, over the Mustang's entire lifespan through the end of 2011, a total of 8,450,741 units have been sold in the United States. The single year with the most U.S. sales was 1966 with 549,436. Conversely, 2009 logged the fewest Mustang sales reaching only 66,623 units.*
The following graph shows the top 10 most stolen Mustang model years for the period 2001-2011. Overall, a total of 91,152 Mustangs were stolen during this time frame; the top 10 listed below accounts for 45,421 thefts or 50 percent of all thefts during that period.
2001–2011 National Mustang Thefts
Model Year Most Stolen Number of Thefts
2000 7,085
1995 6,790
1998 5,394
2001 5,103
2002 4,226
2003 3,966
1994 3,949
2004 3,234
1996 3,045
1989 2,629
Total 45,421
At NICB, we have been in the business of identifying and recovering stolen vehicles since 1912. Our expertise has been sought by law enforcement agencies all over the nation to assist with major auto theft investigations. Frequently, NICB recovers stolen vehicles that have long since been forgotten-except by their owners.
In 1982, a Mustang owned by a young Marine stationed at Cherry Point, North Carolina, was stolen. This was no ordinary Mustang; it was a 1965 Shelby GT-350. The Marine soon deployed and never saw that car again until 2007 when an NICB agent contacted him with news that his Mustang was located in Maryland. In the intervening years since it was stolen, the Mustang's true identity-its VIN-had been painstakingly altered and matched with a fraudulent title. It was then sold to an unsuspecting buyer who eventually put a new $12,000 Shelby engine in it. 
The duped owner was contacted in 2007 by the Maryland State Police and an NICB special agent asking to inspect his Shelby. As you can imagine, he was absolutely dazed when they informed him that his prized possession was, in fact, stolen property.
That young Marine from 1982-now a professional airline pilot-was overjoyed when he was notified that his dream car had been recovered and was in excellent condition. And, in a classy gesture of goodwill-he was not legally required to do so-the pilot gave the former owner a check for $12,000 for the engine.
Whether or not you own a Shelby Mustang, take steps to protect your vehicle from theft. Although vehicle thefts have been declining in recent years if it happens to you it can be financially devastating and just an all-around hassle. NICB urges motorists to follow its "layered approach" to auto theft prevention. By employing these simple, low-cost suggestions people can make their vehicles less attractive to thieves.

NICB's four layers of protection are:
Common Sense: Lock your car and take your keys. It's simple enough, but many thefts occur because owners make it easy for thieves to steal their cars.
Warning Device: Having and using a visible or audible warning device is another item that can ensure that your car remains where you left it.
Immobilizing Device: Generally speaking, if your vehicle can't be started, it can't be stolen. "Kill" switches, fuel cut-offs and smart keys are among the devices which are extremely effective.
Tracking Device: A tracking device emits a signal to the police or to a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen. Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. Some systems employ "telematics" which combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.
Anyone with information concerning vehicle theft and insurance fraud can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422), texting keyword "fraud" to TIP411 (847411) or by visiting our Web site at www.nicb.org.
*All Mustang sales figures provided by Automotive News Data Center.
About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, training, legislative advocacy, and public awareness. The NICB is supported by more than 1,100 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $319 billion in insurance premiums in 2010 or approximately 80 percent of the nation's property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 94 percent ($152 billion) of the nation's personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.