California Introduces Strict New Laws for Auto Parts

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
california introduces strict new laws for auto parts

On Sunday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed new legislation designed to prevent catalytic-converter thefts. The auto part has become a preferred target for criminals, especially on the West Coast, due to its high content of precious metals and relative ease of removal. Last year, more than 18,000 units are believed to have been hacked off in California alone and the issue only seems to be getting worse.

The law seeks to impose stricter penalties on thieves and adds a new $1,000 fine that multiplies itself every time someone is caught sawing on an exhaust pipe without the owner’s permission. But it also establishes rules that effectively make it illegal to purchase auto parts from anyone other than a licensed dealer or the vehicle’s current owner.

This requires that recyclers keep comprehensive records of any catalytic converters that come into their possession, lest they face penalties of their own – starting with a suspension that would put them temporarily out of business. Purchasers will now need to keep a written agreement signed by the seller, along with the agreed-upon price for a period of two years. Additionally, buyers will need to have copies of any unique ID numbers and/or original vehicle identification numbers which California says will now need to be etched onto the parts.

While this may make it harder to move ill-gotten catalytic converters, it also sets the stage for serialized automotive parts. The upside to this is that they’ll be easier to track and regulate. However, the right-to-repair movement has cautioned that such initiatives could potentially strengthen pre-existing ties between automotive manufacturers and the government, stifle at-home mechanics' ability to source parts from junkyards, and create new controls that may help OEMs to monopolize the aftermarket industry.

But the fact remains that converter thefts have become a serious problem over the past 48 months and the best solution thus far has been to avoid buying anything with a lot of ground clearance or literally wrapping your exhaust pipe with braided steel that’s harder to cut through. As much as I want to back the right-to-repair movement, additional actions may need to be taken unless California is going to be cool with people running cat-free exhausts. Though something tells me that the most emissions-obsessed state in the Union probably isn’t willing to compromise on that, especially when the new rules mean more opportunity for regulation.

According to the Los Angeles Times, California actually introduced a full suite of bills designed to address the staggering increase in thefts. Senate Bill 1087, by state Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), and Assembly Bill 1740, by Assembly member Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates) are the ones that increase penalties for buyers who fail to certify with the government that a catalytic converter wasn’t stolen. These are being mimicked by other states, with over 100 individual pieces of pending legislation existing elsewhere in the country.

With State Farm insurance reporting that catalytic converter theft grew almost 293 percent nationwide by the summer of 2021 – one year after the initial spike in theft – it’s easy to see why states would want more protection. But none of the legislation really addresses the root issue. Thefts didn’t increase because someone realized that catalytic converters were valuable and relatively easy to steal. They jumped because the economy entered into a period of severe duress and gave way to increased levels of crime in general. Worse yet, the extensive paper trail that’s at the heart of most of the resulting legislation only helps when a catalytic converter is being resold. Units being held for a period of over two years or immediately torn apart so the individual materials can be smelted down for profit likely won’t be impacted by the new rules – so the best case scenario is that the new laws discourage thieves while making stolen converters a little harder to flip overnight.

[Image: fru-fru/Shutterstock]

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2 of 19 comments
  • D. E. Renken D. E. Renken on Sep 27, 2022

    Steve65 - Stay on topic. The cops don't steal catalytic converters. The cops are actually the good guys.

  • Master Baiter Master Baiter on Sep 28, 2022

    Not being satisfied with destroying San Fransisco and all of California, Newsom appears to have his sights set on the presidency. God help us all.

    Newsom is living proof that women shouldn't be allowed to vote.

  • Jwee More range and faster charging cannot be good news for the heavily indebted and distracted Musk.Tesla China is discounting their cars. Apart from the Model 3, no one is much buying Tesla's here in Europe. Other groups have already passed Tesla in Europe, where it was once dominant.Among manufacturers, 2021 EV sales:VW Group 25%, Stellantis at 14.5%,Tesla at 13.9%Hyundai-Kia at 11.2% Renault Group at 10.3%. Just 2 years ago, Tesla had a commanding 31.1% share of the European EV marketOuch., changed their data, so this is slightly different than last time I posted this, but same idea.
  • Varezhka Given how long the Mitsubishi USA has been in red, that's a hard one. I mean, this company has been losing money in all regions *except* SE Asia and Oceania ever since they lost the commercial division to Daimler.I think the only reason we still have the brand is A) Mitsubishi conglomerate's pride won't allow it B) US still a source of large volume for the company, even if they lose money on each one and C) it cost too much money to pull out and no one wants to take responsibility. If I was the head of Mitsubishi's North American operation and retreat was not an option, I think my best bet would be to reduce overhead by replacing all the cars with rebadged Nissans built in Tennessee and Mexico.As much as I'd like to see the return of Triton, Pajero Sport (Montero Sport to you and me), and Delica I'm sure that's more nostalgia and grass is greener thing than anything else.
  • Varezhka If there's one (small) downside to the dealer not being allowed to sell above MSRP, it's that now we get a lot of people signing up for the car with zero intention of keeping the car they bought. We end up with a lot of "lightly used" examples on sale for a huge mark-up, including those self-purchased by the dealerships themselves. I'm sure this is what we'll end up seeing with GR Corolla in Japan as well.This is also why the Land Cruiser has a 4 year waitlist in Japan (36K USD starting MSRP -> buy and immediately flip for 10, 20K more -> profit) I'm not sure if there's a good solution for this apart from setting the MSRP higher to match what the market allows, though this lottery system is probably as close as we can get.
  • Jeff S @Lou_BC--Unrelated to this article but of interest I found this on You Tube which explains why certain vehicles are not available in the US because of how the CAFE measures fuel standards. I remember you commenting on this a few years ago on another article on TTAC. The 2023 Chevrolet Montana is an adorable small truck that's never coming to the USA. It's not because of the 1.2L engine, or that Americans aren't interested in small trucks, it's that fuel economy legislation effectively prevents small trucks from happening. What about the Maverick? It's not as small as you think. CAFE, or Corporate Average Fuel Economy is the real reason trucks in America are all at least a specific dimension. Here's how it works and why it means no tiny trucks for us.
  • Gabe A new retro-styled Montero as their halo vehicle to compete against the Bronco, Wrangler and 4Runner. Boxy, round headlights like the 1st generation, two door and four door models, body on frame.A compact, urban truck, Mighty Max, to compete against the Maverick. Retro-styled like the early 90s Mighty Max.A new Outlander Sport as more of a wagon/crossover to compete against the Crosstrek and Kona. Needs to have more power (190+ HP) and a legit transmission, no CVT.A new Eclipse hybrid to compete against the upcoming redesigned Prius. Just match the Prius's specs and make it look great.Drop the Eclipse Cross, I am not sure why they wanted to resurrect the Pontiac Aztec. Keep the Mirage and keep it cheap, make the styling better and up the wheel size. The Outlander seems fine.I like the idea of some sort of commercial vehicle, something similar in size to the Promaster City but with AWD.