By on August 25, 2016

2016 GMC Sierra Denali Ultimate

It’s the latest in a string of similar nighttime thefts, but it’s not surprising — after all, when four hours’ work can net you hundreds of thousands of bucks, who expects thieves to stop?

This past weekend, the inventory of a General Motors dealer lot in Tyler, Texas was left up on blocks after thieves stripped 48 vehicles of their wheels, Automotive News reports.

Tyler police say an unknown number of people disabled the lot’s lighting system and made off with the wheels after about four hours. The estimated value of the wheels is somewhere between $200,000 and $250,000.

Police spokesman Don Martin told AN that the thieves showed up with a large box truck at about 1:22 a.m. They were gone before daybreak.

Wheel theft on a mass scale is commonplace in Texas, with thieves employing well-equipped teams of people to strip dozens of vehicles of rims and rubber in a single night. The wheels will fetch about 50 percent of their original value on the black market, with large SUV rims being the most popular (and lucrative).

In Tyler, southeast of Dallas, the thieves targeted 20- and 22-inch wheels, though David Bates, general manager at Peltier Chevrolet, said that many were just “ordinary” Camaro and Traverse wheels. In the past two years, similar heists hit dealers in Texas City, Georgetown, Houston, and Austin, with several reported in San Antonio. Another Tyler dealer was cleaned out last year.

Some mass wheel thefts occur in other states, but Texas seems to be ground zero for this crime. Small-scale thefts, on the other hand, are common just about everywhere. Recently, a lone man met a gruesome end under a GMC Yukon during a failed heist at a Canton, Ohio GM dealer.

[Image: General Motors]

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43 Comments on “Massive Wheel Heist Leaves Another East Texas Dealership up on Blocks...”

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I feel a movie could be made from this.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It would be cheaper to hire a rent-a-cop every evening.

    These dealers must be located in the middle of nowhere*, and/or these teams are not using (loud) power tools. Five minutes per car sounds like they’re using manual labor to keep it quiet.

    But I can’t imagine the dealer’s lights being disabled for 4 hours without the police at least stopping by to investigate.

    * Yep, their back lot has no neighbors, and is plenty isolated from the main drag:

    • 0 avatar

      A dealer group in my area does this very thing. They have several dealerships (VW, Ford, Chrysler etc.) but the dealerships are all a few blocks from each other. The security man just randomly drives from lot to lot all night long.

      On the other hand, the local Mercedez Benz dealer has a camera system that is remotely monitored in the off hours. I only know this because I stopped to look at a car on display around 10:00pm. The dealership was closed, but all fancy lights and turntables were on., As I admired the paint finish on one of the cars, an annoyed sounding woman came over hidden outdoor speakers and told me to leave or the police wold be called.

      • 0 avatar

        I worked a dealer that got worked for 80 sets. The rent-a-cop would drive by several times a night, but I’m sure they could hear him coming from a 1/2 mile away. About no one else drove down that street late at night. Must have used a couple semis parked in the field behind.

      • 0 avatar

        I guess the orange peel in the paint is less visible at night.

        Perhaps when these dirtbags get a job, they could work a pit crew.

      • 0 avatar

        @redliner That’s exactly what happened to me a few months ago at a BMW dealership also around 10:30pm. This dealer is along a busy, heavily-policed suburban strip filled with chain restaurants and stores, and the front lot whose display cars I was looking over is right along the sidewalk, brightly lit, and easily visible from the main road. I assumed they left a representative sample of cars, one of each model, out front specifically to be looked over during off hours. I can’t believe any experienced security officer would mistake me for a thief.

    • 0 avatar

      Insurance goes up what, $2K a month at most? Still cheaper than a rent-a-cop in most cases. In most cases since this is probably their first theft the insurance will eat it and hit them with a much more modest premium increase. It’s why this is so common, the cost and frequency makes them really minimal losses. Never mind that in reality, ordering replacements from the factory will run them probably less than a grand per-vehicle.

  • avatar
    George B

    These thefts seem to mostly occur at GM dealerships in Texas. Wouldn’t be surprised if there is a strong correlation between the bolt pattern of wheels stolen and vehicles popular with Mexicans. Hard to sell that many stolen wheels inside the US without raising suspicion.

    • 0 avatar

      Not necessarily. My dad’s Maxima rims got stolen in 1995 in NYC. I remember seeing a lot of old, janky cars on late model wheels. Most egregious example was an old Nissan Quest on the 19″ G35 Rays wheels. Now it’s entirely possible the wheels were obtained in a legitimate way…. but it’s more likely that they weren’t.

    • 0 avatar

      Easy enough to pass them on to the next GM dealer who is willing to buy through back channels especially if they’re being offered at half or less where they can charge customers full price. Shady actors all around and lets be honest, the Mexican market isn’t that soaked to be stealing American Truck wheels, they would just import chinese knockoffs most likely.

      These thieves are unloading hot merch on other dealers and 3rd party repair shops mostly.

  • avatar

    I guess I’m naive, but do trucks really have $5000 worth of wheels? That’s half the price of some cars!

    • 0 avatar

      OEM retail, yes. My Mustang’s standard 18″ wheels cost $800 a piece from Ford. I was looking at a Challenger as well. I asked if the ugly 20″ wheels could be swapped by the dealer, and no, they were $1,000 a piece.

      I’ve been looking for alternative Mustang wheels on Craiglist, and will usually see whole sets from $500-$800, depending on the size and whether there are tires included.

      • 0 avatar

        I have picked up tons of Mustang wheels for as little as $50 a set on Craigslist but I usually pay $100-$200 and some of those come with good or better tires. Granted those are usually the 17″ wheels and not 18″.

    • 0 avatar

      Even a set of relatively common up-level family sedan wheels can fetch $500-800. Remember, you’re not just buying new wheels, you’re also getting new tires.

      $500 is decent pay for 10 minutes of wrenching.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point. GM probably is behind these heists so insurance companies have to pay their ridiculous parts prices to replace the wheels.

    • 0 avatar

      Prices become obscene when insurance companies are the only direct purchaser of a product. Regular people just buy reconditioned, salvage, or take-off wheels if they need replacements.

      • 0 avatar

        “Prices become obscene when insurance companies are the only direct purchaser of a product.”

        e.g. the EpiPen. About $1 worth of drug at $600 list for two pens.

      • 0 avatar

        ^THIS^ for RPN453

        Had a few rims ruined due to catastrophic tire failure (steel flashing once slashed the tire and slammed the rim, second time was rubbed rim on a parallel parking that just twisted it). I called up junk yards and picked up new rims for less than $50 because I let them keep the tire. Had I bought it brand new it would have been $300. This is exactly the issue with ‘oem replacement’ standards carrying over to parts that really don’t need it but it’s the way insurance companies like to operate and customers like the idea of a new rim from insurance than a salvaged rim even if they’re identical in terms of practical strength.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    That’s a lot of money they stole, which is good for them, ’cause it sounds like a lot of work.

    I’m too lazy even to change my own tires.

  • avatar

    Whatever happened to those stupid wheel lug nut locks that dealerships used to love to put on to pad the invoice?

  • avatar

    Whatever happened to Night Watchmen? Damn dealers too cheap to pay min.wage for 8hrs a night.
    Less than a hundred bucks for petesakes.

    • 0 avatar

      Depends on what they pay for theft insurance.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, I posted this earlier, a full-time guard even in Texas is about 24K at a minimum. You could maybe hire a firm to contract it out for slightly less but not a whole lot unless you planned on skipping weekends. So unless their added premium after this theft is equal to that there is no particular reason to hire the guard.

  • avatar

    $1000 per wheel? Sounds more like an insurance scam to me.

    If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably is a duck.

  • avatar

    And not one crushed skull… goddamit!!!

  • avatar

    Maybe the lot manager can see the F&I guy for some wheel protection packages…

  • avatar

    My dealer parks inventory close together and the fancier indoors in a warehouse leased nearby.

  • avatar

    A local used car dealer that I drive by every day had a used Corvette C6 sitting lopsided on blocks, its rims missing. The odd thing is that it’s sat like that for the whole week now. Also fairly recently, a different used car lot further down the street (entering ‘hood’ territory) that specialized in used German iron and Chrysler 300s got broken into and the crew took off with 6 of their cars. Apparently they just threw a brick throw a window, waited to see if the alarm triggered a police response, then just waltzed in and grabbed a bunch of keys.

  • avatar

    The viral marketing for Fast8 is really getting out of hand!

  • avatar

    I don’t guess the dealer is too inclined to take future steps to stop this, when it’s 1) going to be on the insurance company’s dime anyway and 2) gets them free publicity.

  • avatar

    Sounds like typical GM….to cheap to put wheel locks on $50,000 + vehicles.

  • avatar

    How much are wheels like plain 5-spokes from Tahoes and the like worth, if they’re not the big 20s?

  • avatar

    My ’63 Chrysler Newport had 14″ wheels. My ’65 Impala had 14″ wheels. My ’68 Montego had 14″ wheels. My ’75 Buick Century had 14″ wheels. My ’81 Buick Regal had 14″ wheels. My dad’s 1925 Ford Fordor had 21″ wheels. Why are we going back to wagon wheels?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Lorenzo–It is back to the future. What is old is new again, but with a fancier package and a higher price. I don’t see an advantage with the big wheels which have less side wall, more costly, more likely to blowout, and a rougher ride. My father always ordered hubcaps on his new cars because they were less likely to be stolen but eventually he had to get wheel covers because they stopped offering hubcaps on most cars.

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