Light commercial vehicles such as the Toyota Hi-Lux are the main targets of professional thieves.
Tradies' utes are being stolen and shipped to Asia and the Middle East as spare parts.
The illegal trade is the latest trend in vehicle theft in the wake of stricter guidelines on rebirthing.
National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council boss Ray Carroll says light commercial vehicles such as the Toyota Hi-Lux are the main targets of professional thieves.
"Your ute could be driving around Afghanistan now with a machine gun in the back,'' he says. "There is a huge demand coming out of Asia and the Mid East for second-hand parts and motors and where there's a legitimate market, there is also a thriving illegal market.''
Carroll says utes are being stolen from tradies rather than companies or mines. "The other down side is that when they get stolen they often take a whole bunch of tools; and then there is the down time for the tradie without a vehicle and tools.''
Carroll says the illegal export parts industry has been minor until recently. "As rebirthing has become more difficult because of the written-off vehicle review, export becomes the next best thing,'' he says.
"If you are able to send out a container of parts as a parts recycler, customs has no facility to intercept that container.'' Carroll says container loads of parts and engines are shipping out of Australia daily. "Most of those are legitimate parts, but there are also illegal parts and that is a major challenge for us,'' he says.
"It's like finding a needle in a haystack because there is such a large volume of stuff going. "It's almost impossible for the police and authorities to verify where the stuff came from.'' Carroll says the solution is regulation and licensing of the automotive recycling industry and better monitoring of exports. "At the moment anyone can do it. There is no regulation,'' he says.
"We're being told by the legitimate industry that rogue operators are damaging their ability to run their businesses. "They are having trouble buying cars now for recycling purposes because rogue operators are undercutting them.''
The council has begun talks with industry groups about a formal "end of life'' vehicle scheme in Australia. Carroll says this would not only rein in theft, but also ensure the proper environmental disposal of harmful byproducts such as oils, lubricants and batteries.
"People involved in illegal stuff don't dispose of batteries and oils properly. They just pull the engine out with a forklift and let the oil spill everywhere,'' he says. "There is a lot of support for regulation from the legitimate are parts industry.''
The council's latest "Theft Watch'' report shows short-term theft in the past year was up 5 per cent and profit-motivated theft up 4 per cent. Almost the entire rise is the result of significant increases in Queensland and Western Australia while only NSW and Tasmania recorded fewer thefts.
A total of 11,268 vehicles was stolen for short term use such as joy rides in the March quarter, representing a rise of 876 (8 per cent) from the previous quarter. Passenger cars and light commercial vehicles represented 89 per cent of short-term thefts (10,030), 8 per cent motorcycles (866) and 3 per cent other vehicles (372).
A total of 4814 vehicles were stolen by "professionals'' for profit, up 458 (11 per cent) from the previous quarter. Passenger cars and LCVs made up 67 per cent (3228) and rose 12 per cent from the previous quarter. Motorcycles made up 26 per cent (1274) and other vehicles 7 per cent (339).
|Passenger/LCT||13,258 (up 1189, 10%)|
|Motorcycles||2113 (up 200, 10%)|
|Other||711 (down 55, -7%)|
|Total||16,082 (up 1334, 9%)|
(Figures from National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council for March quarter)