The Cadillac Escalade EXT is the vehicle most targeted by thieves, a study by the insurance industry found, according to a report in the Associated Press on October 21.It's the second year in a row that an Escalade has been at the top of the list, which was released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The Escalade sport-utility vehicle topped last year's list; this year, that SUV is third.The Nissan Maxima, a midsize sedan, is the second most likely to be stolen among newer vehicles. The Maxima's theft rate went up after the company began installing expensive, high-intensity headlights as standard equipment in 2002, the institute said.The institute calculated which newer vehicles are most likely to be stolen by looking at theft claims per 1,000 insured vehicles from model years 2001 to 2003. The Escalade EXT had a claim rate of 20.2. The lowest-ranking vehicles — the Buick LeSabre, Buick Park Avenue and Ford Taurus station wagon — had claim rates of 0.5.The Escalade EXT, which starts at $53,665, debuted in 2002. Owners often add custom wheels and spinning rims that can increase the vehicle's cost by more than $10,000 -- and help make it seven to eight times more likely to be stolen than the average new vehicle.Russ Rader, a spokesman for the IIHS, said immobilizers have been the most effective way to stop thefts. Rader said, however, that no prevention efforts are perfect. “The bottom line is that if a determined thief wants your vehicle, there's not a whole lot that you can do,'' he said.The institute said overall theft claims have declined steadily from an average of about 15 per 1,000 insured vehicles in 1980 to 2.5 in 2003. At the same time, the average insurance payment per theft claim has been rising. The average insurance payout for an Escalade EXT theft claim is $14,939, compared to $5,928 for all vehicles.