Let’s just say that this thief didn’t get away with any free wheels

There was once a time when new cars didn’t come with great looking wheels. The norm was black steel wheels with ugly hubcaps or premium wheels that were maybe 16 or 17 inches in size. Nowadays, however, manufacturers have taken note of the general public’s love for larger and flashier wheels, and that’s why so many new models come with 18- to 20-inch wheels in various designs that are polished aluminum or chrome. In retrospect, the auto industry took the same kind of note when it comes to stock audio systems, but that’s another story for another time. Today, I’m here to talk about a car thief who lost his life trying to steal a set of wheels from a brand new GMC Yukon at a dealership in Canton Ohio.

This attempted theft is one of many wheel thefts that have occurred recently, with the most prominent theft being 45 sets of wheels from a dealership in a San Antonio Suburb last November. As for this attempted robbery, the thief was attempting to lift the vehicle with what I assume to be a cheap scissor jack or a jack that wasn’t suitable for lifting a heavy Yukon when the vehicle fell off of the jack and somehow impacted his head – likely causing instant death.

The craziest part about this specific accident is that it was unnoticed for a period of time. According to various sources, the dealership opened as usual that morning, and conducted business as usual until a car that was blocking the gruesome view was moved, exposing those in charge to the aftermath of a wheel theft gone horribly wrong. The Canton Repository has identified the man as 43-year-old Richard E. Ritch and the dealership as Ron Marhofer Buick GMC.

Despite the weird turn of events that Saturday morning, the dealership continued business as usual that day. Eventually, the Yukon was inspected and found to be free of damage. Research indicates that once the matter is closed by local law enforcement, the dealer will be able to sell the vehicle as it usual would without having to disclose its “deadly” history.

Keep reading for the rest of the story

Why it Matters

This is a pretty wild story, but it isn’t wildly surprising to me. Stock wheel theft has gone up in recent years, and manufacturers strive to bring wheel packages that customers aren’t itching to replace as soon as they roll off the lot. As grimy as it is to steal something for profit, it’s quite a profitable venture as stock wheels are often valued $300 to $400 a piece when purchased individually as replacements or upgrades after a vehicle has been purchased. On the black market, for instance, the same $400 wheel may sell for $150 or $200, or even cheaper when purchased in sets. The market is only growing, and more of this will continue to happen.

I think it’s time that auto manufacturers take the full playbook from aftermarket wheel companies and start offering unique lock kits for wheel fasteners. It’s been done in the past by GM as an optional thing – my 1991 Grand Prix still has a stock pair of lug lockers – but if wheel theft is going to stop, manufacturers need to begin equipping them as standard equipment with unique keys for each vehicle. I mention the unique key aspect because most aftermarket wheelsets and even the old lug lockers were easily removed with a master key or with a little bit of creativity and elbow grease. Nowadays, manufacturers need to get creative and supply each individual vehicle with its own unique wheel lock arrangement that isn’t easy to hack or circumvent. That will put an end to wheel theft like this real fast.

Unfortunately, the man in this story paid the ultimate price, but I don’t feel bad for him. He strayed away from being honest in an attempt to make a quick buck. Doing so cost him his life. If nothing else, he should have paid more attention to what he was doing, as accidents like this one – even if he was doing something illegal – are easily prevented.

Source: The Truth About Cars

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