In March 2021, Wheels24 interviewed a former criminal about VW badge and headlight theft.

The price of OEM badges costs from R850, while headlight casings alone are priced at R7 000 per set.

This alarming trend is proving costly for vehicle owners.

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Earlier in March, Wheels24 interviewed a former thief who stole the badges off Volkswagen Polo and Polo Vivo models to make a living.

The thief explained how and where the act is committed without displaying much sympathy for the unsuspecting owners.

A new video posted on the Crime Air Network Twitter page shows thieves stealing the headlights of a pre-facelifted, fifth-generation VW Polo GTI in less than five seconds – all in broad daylight.

Two men jump out of another Polo and seem to just pull out the headlights from the white Polo GTI parked outside a home in a residential area. The incident took place within seconds and the thieves jump back into the vehicle and speed off. This act will set the owner back anywhere between R25 000 to R35 000 if they are not insured.

An alarming trend

Most GTI models, either Golf or Polo, come factory with LED headlights. A set of brand-new ones for the year model depicted in the video costs R35 000, according to a local Volkswagen Cape Town dealership.

While VW cars might seemingly be targeted, many of our readers have shared similar stories of their badges and headlights being stolen from other brands such as Toyota or Ford, to name a few.

Volkswagen South Africa told Wheels24: “Volkswagen is concerned about the reported theft cases of the Polo Vivo and previous generation Polo headlights. Volkswagen has confidence in the build quality of its vehicles and wishes to reassure its customers that no aspect of the design or fitment of parts makes its vehicles easier to steal than any other vehicle.”

Have you been the unfortunate victim of badge or headlight theft? Please email us or share your thoughts in the comments section below.

headlight theft, vw polo gti

Thieves steal a set of VW Polo GTI headlights in broad daylight in under five seconds.

Unfortunately, headlight theft is a regular and alarming occurrence in South Africa. Fellow Wheels24 reader Sandra Thackeray says the headlights of her son’s GTI was stolen without the bonnet even needed to be open and was expensive to replace.

Another reader, Johann Kurfurst says: “Our 2019 Polo TSi had its headlights stolen at my wife’s workplace in November last year, not even the xenon lights. Video evidence shows it took less than 4 minutes to remove both headlights. It costs a total of R22 000 to repair all the damages.”

EXPLAINER | This former thief shares why stealing VW Polo badges is a lucrative ‘business’

Thankfully in Johann’s case, he didn’t have to fork out the cash for a replacement OEM set:

“Luckily, it was paid out by insurance. It happened a week after the Polo was returned from the Panel beaters after someone reversed into my wife and just a week before someone pushed me off the road in a traffic circle in my Touareg. As you can see, I’m a big VW fan, having driven about 17 vehicles from the VW stable in my 38 years of driving.

The current Polo GTI on sale locally retails for R453 700.

Fifth-generation VW Polo GTI

Fifth-generation VW Polo GTI

Wheels24 editor Janine Van der Post says: “Unfortunately, the automaker can not be held liable for this alarming and costly inconvenience to motorists, and other brand owners have fallen victim too. Perhaps automakers could find a way to secure badges and headlights with future models, but there is no short-term solution. 

“As per our previous article on badge theft, a simple deter of the crime could be to use cable ties for extra protection, at least for badges, as this proves to make the job a little more difficult for criminals. Those few seconds of struggle could just be enough to make them abort their attempts. Headlights are not that easy, though, but could also use cable ties to secure.”

Allie Abass is an aftermarket specialist and says he has removed many Volkswagen headlight sets for customers to replace them with LED headlights. They can be removed very quickly and easily. 

Abass says: “I have seen more and more videos on social media of criminals stealing headlights. These lights clip in but usually have two screws on top to secure the lights. This means criminals are breaking those clips when they’re ripping them out of vehicles, and that’s an easy way for others to know they are buying stolen products. However, it seems those who are purchasing these lights don’t care and still buy them nonetheless. 

“If you’re looking for a quick-fix, cable ties could add a bit more protection but not prevent this from happening at all. It will only make it a bit more difficult for these criminals to get hold of your lights. Best would be to use cable ties to secure the headlights under the bonnet by secure the lights at the bottom of the casing, or wherever possible.”