Some of the fleet industry’s most desirable models are falling prey to cloning thieves.
According to HPI, the vehicle monitoring arm of Norwich Union, fleet favourites such as the Volkswagen Golf, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 are top of the shopping list for vehicle cloners.
In a wide-ranging review of vehicle insurance claims made over the past year, HPI found the Mercedes-Benz C-Class to be the most attractive to criminals, with 10% of cloned claims involving the model.
Commercial vehicles are also proving popular, with cloned Ford Transits and Vauxhall Vivaros accounting for 8% and 5% of claims respectively.
Cloned vehicles are created by copying the numberplate of a legitimate vehicle on to that of an unregistered model.
They are sold on to unsuspecting buyers or used by criminals to avoid parking and congestion charges.
Daniel Burgess, automotive director at HPI, warned dealers, consumers and business buyers to be vigilant and not just to rely on vehicle serial numbers.
“Simply conducting a history check against the vehicle identification number is not enough,” he said.
“Those who are blinded by a vehicle and are not diligent are putting themselves at considerable risk.
"The motor industry has worked hard to improve the quality and accuracy of the data that it holds on used cars.
“This has made selling a stolen vehicle without changing its identity all but impossible, hence the rise in car cloning.
“But despite the increase in cloning, many people are sceptical of the reality of the problem and even the police admit they do not know its true scale.”
However, the police are in the process of developing software which will track suspected cloned vehicles.
Automatic numberplate recognition cameras will be able to identify when vehicles with identical plates are travelling at the same time.
Top 10 cloned vehicles 2007 (percentage of claims)
- Mercedes-Benz C Class (10%) (pictured)
- Ford Transit (8%)
- Audi A4 (8%)
- BMW 3 Series (7%)
- Audi TT (7%)
- Volkswagen Golf (5%)
- Vauxhall Vivaro (5%)
- Land Rover – all models (3%)
- Peugeot 206 (3%)
- Volkswagen Passat (3%)