By Andrew Frye
March 6 (Bloomberg) -- Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which sells auto insurance through its Geico unit, passed Progressive Corp. to become the third-biggest car insurer in the U.S.
Policy sales last year to individual drivers advanced 6.7 percent to $12.5 billion at Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners said today in a statement on its Web site. Berkshire had about 7.6 percent of the market in 2008, according to the NAIC.
Policyholder-owned State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., based in Bloomington, Illinois, remains the leader, with a market share of about 18 percent, the NAIC said. Allstate Corp. of Northbrook, Illinois, ranks second with an 11 percent share.
Geico, led by Tony Nicely, improved its customer retention in 2008 and signed up new policyholders at a record rate in the first two months of this year, Buffett said on Feb. 28.
“Tony and I feel like two hungry mosquitoes in a nudist camp,” Buffett said of Geico in his annual letter to shareholders. “Juicy targets are everywhere.”
Progressive, based in Mayfield Village, Ohio, slipped to No. 4 with a 7.1 percent share.
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