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A wheel problem as more car parts become target for thieves

New data from LV= General Insurance (LV= GI) reveals that more car parts are becoming a target for thieves, such as airbags, steering wheels and catalytic converters, with thefts of keyless cars also continuing to rise.


A wheel problem as more car parts become target for thieves f
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Since 2017, thefts of steering wheels have risen by 133%1, with demand for airbags, gear sticks and any dashboard components also doubling. The average claims cost for theft of a steering wheel and airbag is around £7,000, with the most expensive claim reaching £41,000 due to a write-off of the vehicle because the entire dashboard was stolen.

Thieves are selling these items on to car garages, which are able to fit these parts at a much lower cost compared to buying them brand new. With the cost of living crisis and bills rising for many, car owners may also be more inclined to accept a ‘second hand’ part to help lower the costs of maintaining and running a car.

Evolving tactics

As the technology of keyless cars evolves, so are the skills and tactics of thieves out to steal them. As such, LV= GI is also seeing a peak rise in thefts of newer keyless cars such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Land Rover, up 19% from 2021. The last peak seen on this scale was a 22% increase from 2019 to 2020, with thefts much lower between 2020 and 2021 (down 6%), and before 2019.

However, t’s not just higher value cars on the rise, with car brands such as Hyundai, Kia, Vauxhall, Ford, Lexus and Toyota also becoming a target for any parts thieves can get their hands on. Thefts are mainly concentrated in areas including London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

How precious is metal?

Catalytic converter thefts have been on the rise for a number of years, accounting for around 10% of car insurance thefts since 2016. However, the car part, which is highly desired due to the precious metal, hit a record high last year, accounting for 20% of all car insurance theft claims, and has remained a substantial problem in the first half of 2022.

Alex Hammond-Chambers-Borgnis, Interim Underwriting Director at LV= General Insurance, comments: 

“We’re certainly seeing an increase in car-related thefts and any spare parts opportunistic thieves can get their hands on to make some extra cash. This is also being fuelled by the fact car parts are currently in very high demand as a result of global supply chain disruption, which is adding to the problem.

With second-hand cars also skyrocketing, we’re seeing all types of vehicles being stolen, and keyless cars in particular remain a problem. The technology of keyless cars continues to improve as more cars are produced, but unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for thieves to work out a way to steal them and advance their own tactics.”

1LV= General Insurance claims data from 2017 to 2022.



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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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