By on May 17, 2022

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and a dozen related trade groups are petitioning Congress to crack down on stolen catalytic converters. The emission control devices are loaded up with valuable metals and are relatively easy to steal if you’re slim enough to get beneath a parked car and happen to have a reciprocating saw handy — making them prime targets for cash strapped criminals, especially now that material prices are on the rise.

Cities across the country have reported an increase in catalytic converter theft this year. While a majority of police departments are estimating a year-over-year increase of under 40 percent, some have said their figures are substantially larger. In March, Las Vegas Police Department estimated there were 87 percent more vehicles with hacked apart exhaust pipes in 2022. Philadelphia was even higher, reporting a staggering 172 percent increase in dismantled exhaust systems. 

Dealers are mad because they’re among the easiest targets. Their lots are easy to access, allowing thieves to hit multiple vehicles in a matter of minutes before hauling the goods off to the scrapyard.

According to Automotive News, NADA and friends have had enough of it. On Monday, the group issued a letter to Democratic and Republican leadership on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asking that a hearing be held regarding the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft (PART) Act.

“These thefts are costing millions of dollars to businesses and vehicle owners alike,” the groups wrote in a letter to Reps. Frank Pallone, (D-NJ), the committee’s chairman, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the GOP ranking member. “In addition, replacing a catalytic converter is costly and often difficult due to the part’s skyrocketing demand and supply chain shortages.”

From Automotive News:

Other groups that signed the letter include the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, American Car Rental Association, American Truck Dealers, American Trucking Associations, National Insurance Crime Bureau and National RV Dealers Association.

In the U.S., catalytic converters are being stolen at increasingly higher rates because they contain costly precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium and are not easily traceable.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau said there were 14,433 catalytic converter thefts reported in the U.S. in 2020 — the last year figures were available — compared with 3,389 cases in 2019. In 2018, there were just 1,298 thefts reported.

While they can be sold for a few hundred bucks, replacing one typically costs the vehicle’s owner a couple of grand. As a result, we’ve started seeing repair shops offering protective services where they’ll surround the relevant hardware with a ring of steel cables that would be difficult to cut through. The theory here is that thieves will ignore any catalytic converter that’ll take more than a couple of minutes to cut out.

The PART Act was introduced in January by Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN) and would introduce new regulations via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requiring all vehicles to have the VIN stamped onto the converter. This information would then be made available to “eligible entities,” which include automotive dealerships, law enforcement agencies, service centers, and unspecified non-profit organizations.

While the rule would theoretically make it easier for police to track stolen converters back to their point of origin, criminals could simply scrape the number off like they do in the movies when someone needs to use a firearm in a crime. Converters dismantled for the materials inside would also have no use for the discarded exterior housing. The right to repair movement has already piped up about possible concerns for DIY repairs and people who source junkyards for parts. Though no formal opposition has yet been mounted against the bill.

[Image: fru-fru/Shutterstock]

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31 Comments on “NADA Wants to Stop Catalytic Converter Theft...”

  • avatar

    Ah – one more article where the narrative regarding efforts by some people to support individuals and eliminate losses are wrapped up with the throwaway “people are just going to do what they do anyway” line – which offers no solutions at all. Because heaven forbid anybody do anything to deter vandalism and theft, so let’s do nothing at all, Right?

  • avatar

    I’d say these dealers should invest in some security cameras. And it’s also a good time to trade up to comprehensive coverage on your car – it was pretty cheap in my case.

    Nevertheless, yeah, this is a huge deal. The hospital my girlfriend works at has had numerous incidents.

  • avatar

    The criminal scrap metal recyclers are the problem. There is no doubt in my mind that purchasers of large quantities of catalytic converters from questionable “scrappers” know exactly what they are purchasing…….stolen converters. The thief and the “legitimate salvage” owner both need some quality criminal justice time.

    • 0 avatar

      The scrapyard I use requires your driving license AND a photo taken on the day and that’s only for steel/copper/zinc/aluminum scrap.

      Scrapyards dealing in the contents of catalytic converters are circumventing the law in some way – perhaps delivering the material to end users in Canada or Mexico as “scrap” ?

  • avatar

    Making it no longer lucrative to resell the cats is a far better first step. Sure, at some level someone will end up putting together an underground network to smuggle em to scrappers out of the country (like they do w stolen cars), but that adds a level of complexity that might deter more casual thieves. Nobody’s gonna retroactively put VINs on existing cats, even if they couldn’t be scraped off.

  • avatar

    Scraping a serial number off a gun doesn’t work. Because it is stamped and the metal is thick, it can still be determined as the stamping physically alters the metal deeply. Admittedly scraping it off a catalytic converter would probably work most of the time because police wouldn’t bother paying for the testing to read it.

  • avatar

    My solution would be to show some social justice and attach envelope with couple of grands under the car and the note asking thieves to take money not catalytic converter.

  • avatar

    In our town they stole CCs only from Toyota Priuses. Luckily for us it took several months for our police to catch thee gang of perpetrators.

  • avatar

    This has been an issue around here, especially with Toyota hybrids. I’m honestly a bit surprised I haven’t yet started up my Highlander Hybrid to find it louder and stinkier than usual.

    Drug-motivated thieves will steal whatever they know they can sell the easiest. So to prevent this sort of theft we need a crackdown on the secondary market. And let’s be real: no one buying a bag of 25 random converters thinks they are legitimate. A few sting operations ought to put a bit of fear in the salvage yards and make the junkies move on to other things.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Why do I get the feeling that any solution will involve me only being able to buy a converter from a dealer?

    And while I do see all of the markups they are charging as a function of the market, surely they don’t expect any sympathy? I mean the “market adjustment” on a Bronco or C8 could probably pay a security guy’s salary for a year.

    If it happens after that, that’s why you have insurance.

  • avatar

    Geez guys. My powerful brain is at work again and holds the biggest bucket of truth.

    The solution is simple. And state govt could do it tomorrow.
    Require scrap yards get a valid ID from scrap seller.
    Then they Mail a check to cat converter sellers house.

    Bang – solved.
    Then the poh poh can track fishy stuff.
    Selling 1-2 converters per year. No big.
    Selling 1-2 dozen a week.
    We have our felon.

  • avatar

    There is always this and a host of other devices:

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It’s really just a Biden Administration program designed to make everyone want to go electric.

  • avatar

    The feds will crack down on this just like they did with robocalls. Now excuse me while I take care of my soon-to-be expiring car warranty.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Tacomas too. Very sadly a few months ago an off-duty officer came out of a store to see his ccs being stolen. There was a gun battle and he didn’t make it through.

  • avatar

    My Element got its converter stolen. The thieves should be thrown in the recycling furnace.

  • avatar

    Perhaps we need a redesign of the exhaust system?
    How about the manifold discharging direct into the c.c. under the hood before continuing to the down pipe and muffler[s].
    Not reachable from below and needing the hood to be cracked, setting off the car alarm.

    • 0 avatar

      What you describe is exactly how my spouse’s 2010 RAV4 2.5L does it. 400-ish bucks for the front catalytic converter also gets you a new exhaust manifold (one part). [Closer to 600 for CARB compliant]

  • avatar
    randy in rocklin

    Some guy here in CA got killed as he was stealing a Cat converter under the car, and the owner drove off without realizing there was a thief under his car.

  • avatar
    randy in rocklin

    Some guy here in CA got killed as he was stealing a Cat converter under the car, and the owner drove off without realizing there was a thief under his car.

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