Ford cars and vans were the model most commonly targeted by carjackers and vehicle thieves over the past financial year, official figures show.
The brand was the most frequently stolen, followed by Vauxhall, BMW, Audi and Hondas representing tens of millions of pounds. In many cases the vehicles are broken up in 'chop shops' and sold as parts
Of the different makes, 775 Fiestas were taken, followed by 629 Transit vans and 324 Focus models.
The figures can be revealed after a Birmingham Live investigation showed that carjackers and thieves hacking key security systems are being paid as little as £200 for the high-end vehicles they are stealing.
Organised crime gangs are making millions of pounds by 'chopping up' and selling on cars taken by teenagers as young as 15.
Some have been 'stolen to order', with mid-range and high-end brands most commonly targeted.
The list released by West Midlands Police shows that Ford, Vauxhall and BMW were the most common models taken between 2017 and 2018, with the same top two followed by Mercedes in the previous year. Land Rover models have appeared in the figures as a standalone category in the most recent financial year. Thieves took 189 of the vehicles overall, which includes 74 Discovery makes, 18 Range Rovers and 13 Evoques.
While Ford models, on the most common types on the roads, were by far the most commonly stolen, high-end marques represented bigger loses for individual motors.
For example. 31 BMW X5s were taken, which retail new from around £55,800 each.
The losses stack up to £1.7million for that model alone.
Car thieves also took 23 Range Rover Evoques, including the 'dynamic', version, which retail new from around £39,600 each.
Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, who is leading a national campaign against car thefts, told BirminghamLive friends and neighbours had fallen victim to car thieves.
He said: “I have not had my car stolen but a number of my neighbours have. They have had high performance and even low performance cars taken. The ones most likely to be taken are the Fiesta and Focus, they are very popular with the thieves because they can take them off and there's a huge market for them and they can sell the spares very cheaply. All vehicles are at risk and I've had neighbours and members of my family who have been targeted in this way.”
Police have launched a fightback, with operations targeting vehicle thefts and motoring offences across the West Midlands resulting in hundreds of arrests in recent weeks.
These include efforts to break up 'chop shops', the name given to illicit garages in back streets or industrial estates that use spares to fix write-offs that are then sold on through eBay, Gumtree, Autotrader or other sites.
Sometimes turning round new vehicles in a matter of hours, they fix the dodgy spares to repairable write-offs bought at salvage auctions.
Individual parts are also sold on, while some cars are kept intact and shipped overseas, with Eastern Europe and North Africa being common destinations.
Sources claim the carjackers are paid as little as £200 per stolen vehicle - while the gangs cream in millions of pounds.
David Jamieson, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, said there had been a "levelling off" in car thefts after the amount nearly tripled over the past three years.
The region, in the centre of the motorway network, did have one of the worst car theft problems in the UK as technology shifted towards keyless entry systems.
Mr Jamieson is calling on manufacturers to do more to protect motorists, calling it “outrageous” that thieves are able to break through defences in a matter of seconds.
He said: “The evidence is that the kids might be paid a few hundred quid per car while one of the chop shops was making profits of five million pounds in a year.
“In some cases they are given instructions as to which cars to go out and steal.
“Some of the vehicles are being stolen to be cut up for spares at chop shops, and we have borne down on those, the police are tackling those and we have had a lot of good information from the public. Some of the cars are being taken out whole and exported, and again police are following them through.”
Mr Jamieson is leading a national campaign against car thefts, which also calls on owners to use preventative measures such as a wheel lock or Faraday bag that blocks a key’s signal.
“What we want the public to do is to take more care with their vehicles,” he said.
“Some people actually leave their vehicles unlocked.
“But also making sure they put a full steering wheel lock on, that will secure the car.
“The other thing we are tackling is with the manufacturers.
“The question I’m asking is, you’re selling someone a vehicle that costs twenty, or forty or even eighty thousand pounds, how is it that someone with a device they can buy cheaply on the internet, can steal it within twenty seconds? That cannot be right.
“Manufacturers have to solve that problem as well.”
Figures published by West Midlands Police in July showed that 3,420 vehicles had been stolen across the region in the first six months of 2018, compared with 1,210 in the same period of 2015.
An investigation by West Midlands Police this year into a gang understood to have bought more than 250 write-offs at salvage auctions led to officers uncovering around 90 stolen cars at a chop shop in Birmingham.
The next set of figures is due to be released in January, but indications suggest the ongoing operations are having an impact.
Mr Jamieson said: “We saw a huge rise which is levelling off in the West Midlands.
“In other parts of the country we are seeing it rapidly going up.
“Now we are seeing some tough action here in the West Midlands but what we need to do nationally is get the manufacturers to make their vehicles safer and much more difficult to steal.”
Mr Jamieson met with BMW, Honda, Ford, Nissan, Audi and Jaguar Land Rover at a conference in April 2018 addressing car crime, though other manufacturers did not attend.
Weak points include keyless fob systems and the ability of thieves to use a programming device freely available online to hack a car’s on-board computer and take control of the vehicle.
“There has been a mixed response from manufacturers,” Mr Jamieson said.
“Some have taken it onboard and I do praise Jaguar Land Rover, they saw the seriousness of this and they have taken that onboard.
“They’ve still got the problem of the cars they sold some years ago and how those are made secure and safe. Ford, again, recognised there was a problem and so did a number of other companies.
“Some of the companies wouldn’t even talk to us, they said, ‘this is nothing to do with us’.
“That’s outrageous, they are selling something worth tens of thousands of pounds, yet it can be stolen in twenty seconds by someone with a device they bought for a few pounds on the internet.
“That’s a disgrace in the modern age, that companies don’t take their responsibilities seriously.”
Mr Jamieson was accompanying West Midlands Police on motoring operations two weekends ago when he heard a radio call relating to carjackers armed with knives and hammers who stole an Audi A3 and a VW Golf in broad daylight at Princess Alice Retail Park in Sutton Coldfield.
In the past month, BirminghamLive has reported on at least 16 carjackings, ranging from a 15-year-old boy stabbing a driver in Selly Oak, to a man being battered for his £400 Ford KA in Kings Norton.
However police statistics show the modus operandi in the majority of thefts is either breaking into a house to steal keys or bypassing a car’s internal security, Mr Jamieson said.
The officers he accompanied made arrests in relation to motoring offences, with colleagues continuing to target chop shops across the West Midlands.
This has included recovering a total of 631 vehicles worth £1.6million from the illicit workshops.
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, responded to Mr Jamieson's concerns this week.
He said: “Industry takes vehicle crime extremely seriously and works closely with government, insurers and police forces nationwide to share intelligence and develop new ways to try to stay one step ahead of the criminals.
"At the same time, manufacturers are investing billions in ever more sophisticated security features and software updates on an ongoing basis.
"However, technology can only do so much.
"We continue to call for action to stop the open sale of equipment which helps criminals steal cars – equipment which has no legal purpose – and have written to the Home Secretary seeking a meeting to agree how this can be addressed.”