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Do high performance cars 'go' faster?

Published: January 2014

For many Australians, a motor vehicle is one of their most important possessions. This study analyses whether the attraction of many drivers to high performance vehicles also results in a greater attraction to thieves. It compares the theft rates of high performance vehicles with their standard performance counterparts. Vehicle profile, recovery rates and geographical differences across Australia were also analysed.

Image of two high performance cars nose to nose


This study examined passenger and light commercial (PLC) vehicles with a year of manufacture from 2000 onwards as the majority of these vehicles had an Australian Standard immobiliser as standard equipment. There were 23,449 reported thefts in Australia during 2012/13 and 11,382,593 registrations of these PLC vehicles at 31 December 2012.

Every PLC theft/registration was categorised based on its power to weight ratio (PWR) into:

  • High performance - A PWR greater than 130 kilowatts (kW) per tonne
  • Standard performance - A PWR less than or equal to 130kW per tonne
  • Unknown - A PWR could not be determined.

The theft/registration was matched via the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to manufacturer specification data using CARS VFACTS/Polk Automotive dataset. The PWR was calculated by dividing the vehicle's maximum kW output by its tare weight. In a small number of cases where the tare weight was unavailable for a specific VIN record, the average tare weight of that particular make/model/series was used.

VINs were matched in 95.3 percent of thefts and 97.2 percent of registrations. Where no VIN match was possible, a PWR category was assigned only when a make/model or make/model/series combination always ended up in one PWR category. For example, a Subaru Impreza WRX was only a high performance vehicle. A PWR could not be determined for 546 thefts (2.3 percent) and 94,048 registrations (0.8 percent). These were excluded from the analyses.

Key findings 2012/13

  • There were 1,762 thefts of high performance vehicles in 2012/13, of which 35.8 percent were profit motivated (not recovered). In contrast, 21.9 percent of standard performance vehicles were profit motivated.
  • High performance vehicles were stolen 2.5 times more frequently than standard performance vehicles (4.9 compared to 1.9 thefts per 1,000 registrations).
  • The profit motivated theft rate of high performance vehicles was 4.1 times higher than standard performance vehicles.
  • The theft rate of high performance vehicles was greater than standard performance vehicles in all jurisdictions except the Northern Territory.
  • High performance vehicle theft rates per 1,000 registrations were highest in Western Australia (8.3) and Queensland (6.2). They were both above the national high performance theft rate of 4.9 thefts per 1,000 registrations.
- Number and percent of thefts, theft rate per 1,000 registrations and ratio, by PWR and recovery status, 2012/13
JurisdictionRecovery statusNumber of thefts% of AUS theftsTheft rate per 1,000 registrationsRatio
AUSShort term thefts16,5171,13178.
Profit motivated thefts4,62463121.935.
Total thefts21,1411,7621001001.94.92.5
  • In 2012/13, high performance vehicles accounted for one in every 13 thefts of PLC vehicles with a year of manufacture from 2000 onwards. One in every 32 registrations of PLC vehicles with a year of manufacture from 2000 onwards was high performance.
  • Western Australia had 23.4 percent of Australia's high performance thefts, but only 13.8 percent of registered vehicles. Similarly, Queensland had 22.6 percent of Australia's high performance thefts, but only 18.0 percent of registered vehicles.
  • Victoria was the opposite, with 18.1 percent of Australia's high performance thefts, but 28.5 percent of registered vehicles.
AUS - Number and percent of thefts and registrations, by PWR and jurisdiction, 2012/13
JurisdictionNumber of thefts% of AUS theftsNumber of registrations% of AUS registrations
NT 466114772.20.62.195,4662,71698,1820.90.80.9
SA 9421051,0474.56.04.6763,18626,782789,9687.07.47.0
WA 3,1644123,57615.023.415.61,279,97749,6931,329,67011.713.811.8
  • Among vehicle segments, high performance vehicle theft rates per 1,000 registrations were highest for light commercial vehicles (7.1) followed by large passenger vehicles (4.7) and SUV/People movers (4.6).
  • Theft rates within the light commercial vehicle segment were 3.0 times higher than standard performance light commercial vehicles.
  • The top high performance theft targets were the HSV Maloo VU, FPV F6 Typhoon BF, HSV Maloo VY, HSV Maloo VE and HSV Maloo VZ. Each of these models had a theft rate in excess of 1 per 100 registrations.
  • Where a particular model had both a standard and high performance version, the high performance version usually had a higher theft rate (but not always). For example, the Toyota Aurion GSV40R theft rate was 5.2 times greater for the high performance version.
AUS - Top high performance theft targets ranked by theft rate per 1,000 registrations, 2012/13
Make/model/seriesNumber of high performance theftsNumber of high performance registrations*High performance theft rate per 1,000 registrations
HSV Maloo VU862012.9
FPV F6 Typhoon BF161,26712.6
HSV Maloo VY1189312.3
HSV Maloo VE494,27111.5
HSV Maloo VZ151,32811.3
Holden Commodore Ute VY778,1729.4
Holden Commodore Ute VZ535,8099.1
BMW M3 E46141,5639.0
HSV Senator VE141,6378.6
Holden Commodore VZ394,8098.1
Holden Commodore Ute VU617,6378.0
HSV Clubsport VT79027.8
FPV GT-P FG45167.8
Holden Commodore VX8811,6347.6
HSV Clubsport VY233,1397.3
Holden Commodore VY9713,2447.3
HSV Clubsport VZ152,0707.3
HSV Coupe V281,1347.1
HSV GTS VE486,9296.9
Holden Calais VX152,2146.8

* Each vehicle needed a minimum of 500 registrations to be included in the table above and below.

AUS - Comparison of standard and high performance vehicle models by theft rate per 1,000 registrations, 2012/13
Make/model/seriesNumber of theftsNumber of registrations*Theft rate per 1,000 registrationsRatio
Toyota Aurion GSV40R138578,7305481.89.15.2
Subaru Impreza WRX MY01_021384,6396602.812.14.3
Mitsubishi Lancer CJ157695,4009351.66.43.9
Mazda 3 BK2267157,0451,5061.44.63.2
Subaru Impreza WRX MY03_051995,3119373.69.62.7
Holden Calais VX11154,2842,2142.66.82.6
Holden Commodore VZ35239110,9124,8093.28.12.6
Holden Commodore Ute VU376111,2257,6373.38.02.4
Holden Commodore VY41497124,67313,2443.37.32.2
Porsche Cayenne MY02_06551,1665474.39.12.1
Holden Commodore Ute VZ705315,9505,8094.49.12.1
Holden Commodore VX49288133,73311,6343.77.62.1
Ford Falcon BA44493139,10515,8063.25.91.8
Ford Falcon Ute BA1364743,7498,2923.15.71.8
Holden Commodore Ute VY647712,3558,1725.29.41.8
Ford Fairmont BA45517,8091,1252.54.41.8
Ford Falcon BF2422280,6134,3173.05.11.7
Porsche Boxster 986266421,1393.15.31.7
Holden Commodore Ute VE10013427,58621,9473.66.11.7
Ford Falcon Ute BF761230,2022,9342.54.11.6
Holden Commodore VE573173193,34536,1433.04.81.6
Ford Falcon Ute FG631732,1195,4732.03.11.6
Holden Calais VE362019,9637,0541.82.81.6
Chrysler 300C MY04_127143,2964,2782.13.31.5
Holden Caprice WM7302,6077,5802.74.01.5
Mazda 3 BL1322143,7001,6400.91.21.3
Subaru Impreza WRX MY06_071744,1617394.15.41.3
Holden Calais VY2175,9571,7103.54.11.2
Holden Calais VZ2544,8617125.15.61.1
Ford Falcon AU3129104,3413,0353.03.01.0
Holden Statesman WL1672,5461,3076.35.40.9
Mazda RX810171,8843,8675.34.40.8
Ford Falcon FG3143683,92712,1933.73.00.8
Holden Statesman WM1334,0671,2023.22.50.8
BMW 530i E60512,5826701.91.50.8
Porsche Cayenne MY07+742,2091,6763.22.40.8
Volkswagen Passat 3C27119,4031,1581.40.90.6
Holden Statesman WK1572,5202,8056.02.50.4
Holden Crewman VZ67116,2127544.11.30.3
BMW Z4 E85418479244.71.10.2
  • The theft rate increased with vehicle age, but did so at a faster rate for performance vehicles. In a vehicle's first year on the road, the theft rate of a high performance vehicle was 1.6 times greater than a standard performance vehicle. Twelve years later the average theft rate of a high performance vehicle had increased by a factor of 12.0 and the difference between high and standard performance theft rate had increased by 5.3 times.
  • The median Glass's Guide value estimate of high performance vehicles stolen was $19,400 compared to $14,600 for a standard performance vehicle.
  • The total estimated value of high performance thefts in 2012/13 was $47.6 million. Short term thefts were valued at $34.1 million and profit motivated thefts were estimated to be valued at $13.5 million.
AUS - Theft rate by PWR and vehicle age, 2012/13
Vehicle age at time of theft (years)HighStandard
AUS - Proportion of thefts by PWR and Glass's guide value estimate, 2012/13
Estimated value rangeHighStandard
> $0 to < $5,0000.97.2
$5,000 to < $10,00015.922.6
$10,000 to < $20,00034.737.0
$20,000 to < $30,00021.219.6
$30,000 to < $50,00016.710.9
  • South East Queensland recorded the highest number of high performance vehicle thefts with the Cities of Gold Coast (96 thefts), Brisbane (89) and Logan (52) topping the list of Local Government Areas across Australia.
  • With more than one in five thefts being a high performance vehicle, the Cities of Rockingham and Swan in Western Australia (WA) had a very high percentage of high performance thefts. The Cities of Melville, Wanneroo and Mandurah in WA also recorded large proportions of high performance vehicle thefts (approximately one in every six thefts).
  • When recovered, high performance vehicles were recovered a median distance of 8.3 kms away from the centroid of the suburb where they were stolen. This was just over twice the distance of standard performance vehicles (3.8 kms).
  • High performance vehicles were more likely to be taken from a residence (59.4 percent) compared to standard performance vehicles (50.0 percent). Theft location was based on data from NSW, SA and WA only.
  • In general high performance vehicles were more likely than standard vehicles to be recovered with damage and various components taken. The major exception was that there was no difference in the proportion of vehicles being recovered burnt.

Map of the 1,758# high performance vehicle thefts in Australia, 2012/13

Getting started - Click or tap a motorcycle theft cluster to zoom in.  Zoom with your mouse scroll wheel, or multi-touch zoom on mobile browsers.

Legend: 1 to 9 10 to 49 50 to 149 >= 150 thefts Theft clusters are approximated from the suburb centroid (mid-point).

This report is based on high performance motor vehicle thefts reported to Police (as defined in the method section above). The high/standard ratio was calculated using a floating point number and results were rounded for presentation in the tables. # Four high performance thefts from Queensland were not included as they had an unknown theft suburb. Recovery status is as at 30 June 2013 for TAS and WA and 31 July 2013 for all other states and territories.

The National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) acknowledges all police services, registration authorities, participating insurers, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Glass's Information Services and Insurance Australia Group for the supply of the data on which this report is complied. Theft incident data may be subject to later revision by the data providers. This work is copyright. Material may be reproduced for personal, non-commercial use or for use within your organisation with attribution to the NMVTRC. © 2016 NMVTRC. All rights reserved.

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