A surge in thefts of Land Rover Defenders has prompted warnings for farmers to increase security measures as criminal gangs scour the countryside.
Thefts of the iconic vehicles are back on the rise after a decrease from April-June. Land Rover ceased production of the traditional Defenders in 2016 – and thieves are now targeting the 4x4s for spare parts.
NFU Mutual rural Affairs specialist Rebecca Davidson said: “Defenders continue to be a target for thieves and every week farmers and enthusiast owners are waking up to find their precious Land Rovers gone – or stripped of bonnets, doors and wings.”
The cost Defender theft increased by 34% to £2.1m in 2019, according to NFU Mutual insurance claim figures. The level of thefts then dipped but over the past few months they have risen once again.
Ms Davidson explained: “There’s a burgeoning black market for parts, with many of these beloved classics getting dismantled in driveways and farmyards, or being whisked away to chop shops.”
At least four Defender thefts a week were being reported to NFU Mutual in January 2020, with numbers falling to six per month from April to June. But thefts have risen sharply again and are heading back up to pre-Covid levels.
Ms Davidson said NFU Mutual was warning people in the countryside to be on high alert. She added: “Trackers, alarms and storing vehicles out of sight have all been effective measures protecting these British icons.”
First launched in 1948, Land Rovers have become a prized choice for classic vehicle owners – as well as still being used every day on farms across the country long after the last Defender rolled off the Solihull production line.
NFU Mutual has insured thousands of Land Rover Defenders from the days when the first Series I models appeared in the nation’s fields. It is advising owners to use a mixture of physical security and sophisticated electronic measures to protect vehicles.
“With prices of Series I models soaring due to their vintage value, organised criminals are scouring farmyards and country properties to spot examples they can steal,” explained Ms Davidson.
The insurer also works closely with the National Vehicle Intelligence Service (NaVCIS) – the national police unit that works to protect communities from vehicle finance fraud and associated serious and organised crime.