New car dealers across the United States are facing higher insurance premiums and security costs in the wake of recent attacks by radical environmentalists at dealerships selling sport utility vehicles, The Detroit News reported.

The newspaper said extreme environmental groups are suspected of being behind the torching of SUVs at four dealerships in California last month while, in the most recent incident last Friday, 12 SUVs were damaged at Land Rover Santa Fe in New Mexico. A spokesman for the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association, told the Detroit News that vandals stencilled words like “avarice” and “gluttony” onto the vehicles and also sprayed expanding insulation foam into the tailpipes, causing serious exhaust system damage.

The newspaper said at least 10 dealers have been targeted in similar attacks since mid-2001 and many retailers are taking precautions to ward off future attacks and better insulate themselves from property damage.

The Detroit News said car dealers expect security and insurance expenses to climb because of the attacks, which could mean higher consumer prices for repairs, service and even new cars or trucks, some dealers say.

The Detroit News said car dealers remain unusually vulnerable to vandalism, with much of their million-dollar inventories in the open 24 hours a day.

Security expert Greg Boles, director of global threat management at Kroll Inc., a company that specialises in corporate risk assessment, told the newspaper he advises dealers to develop new security strategies and recommends establishing contact with the FBI and local terrorism specialists to share information and keep up to date with developments.

The Detroit News noted that, ironically, there has been an upside to the recent attacks with some dealers benefiting from the support of a public that has recoiled at the violence and the arrogance of activists trying to dictate what people drive.

A rally staged by the California Hummer Club two days after the attack actually helped business at a dealer where vehicles were vandalised or destroyed by fire and part of the premises burnt out. The publicity increased foot traffic at the dealership, the Detroit News said.