As you may have already heard, catalytic converter thefts are on the rise for a myriad of reasons. Crime is up in general, the economy is in rough shape, they're pretty easy to steal, difficult to track, and the price of certain metals found inside the emission-limiting devices (e.g. platinum, rhodium, and palladium) absolutely skyrocketed after global shutdowns stifled production. The issue has actually gotten so bad that even relatively small cities are reporting organized theft rings getting busted with piles of catalytic converts on hand.
On July 6th, the European Union formally introduced laws that require auto manufacturers to install speed-limiting hardware on new vehicles. While speed governors have been around for years (and are becoming increasingly popular among certain manufacturers) the EU’s new rules actually require technology that takes things a step further by allowing cars to actively detect and then regulate the speed for any given road.
Michigan has opted to allow digital license plates, making it the third state – after California and Arizona – to give them legal backing. The state’s legislature passed the necessary laws in 2019, making it legal for vehicles registered in Michigan to utilize digital vehicle identification while traveling throughout the rest of the nation. But the company that produces them, Reviver, has only just recently found itself in a position to furnish them.
Now that fuel prices are approaching levels you probably never thought you’d see in your lifetime, black-market gasoline has become a thing. Local reports coming out of Nevada are claiming that thieves have begun loading up trucks with stolen gas so they can sell it at a discount. Considering the average price per gallon now exceeds $5.50 for the region, it’s easy to see why some people might be willing to roll the dice and buy discounted fuel of an unknown origin.
But the most lucrative scheme is to transport stolen gas into California, where the prices exceed $6.30 across the state. Here, thieves can sell their ill-gotten petroleum at broader margins. But it takes a special kind of vehicle and a little planning not to blow the additional profit on the trip itself. Tankers aren’t exactly easy to come by and are hardly the least-suspicious way to haul around stolen fuel, so thieves are modifying trucks and vans that can pass as light-duty vehicles.
A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee conducted a hearing to discuss surging traffic deaths on Wednesday. In 2021, traffic deaths surged by over 10 percent over the previous year for a grand total of 42,915 roadway fatalities. But 2020 also represented a sizable 7 percent increase over 2019, despite there being overwhelming evidence that substantially less driving was done during nationwide COVID lockdowns.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee chair holding the hearing, stated that now was the time to hold a meeting on the issue — as last year represented the single highest increase in traffic deaths since the NHTSA started keeping track in 1975.
Stellantis has reportedly agreed to plead guilty to criminal conspiracy charges relating to emissions requirements on over 100,000 diesel-powered Ram and Jeep products sold in the United States. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) was previously on the hook for $800 million in civil penalties over a so-called “defeat device” equipped to the automaker’s 3.0-liter turbo-diesel engine. Allegations began in 2017 as regulators were hunting for compliance violations in the wake of Volkswagen’s massive emissions scandal from a couple of years earlier.
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.
The State of California is considering leveraging enhanced surveillance to increase the number of motorists it can fine for noise violations. While the rules allowing the state to penalize motorists for emitting too much sound have existed for years, they were amped up slightly in 2019 when Assembly Bill 1824 went into effect and established the limits for what’s allowed today. The updated rules also required police to immediately fine anyone driving an automobile that’s emitting noise measured above 95 decibels, rather than issue a fix-it ticket. Motorcycles, which can occasionally exceed 95 dB in their stock format if they’re older, are limited to just 80 dB.
But determining when and where someone broke the rule is difficult, especially considering measurements were originally supposed to be taken under the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) test procedure J1169, so the coastal region is on the cusp of launching a new program that would introduce microphone-equipped traffic cameras similar to what we’ve already seen in New York and the United Kingdom. California leadership believes that an automated system would result in greater levels of enforcement by effectively mimicking the speed camera formula and applying it to vehicular noise violations.
In 2019, New York City basically declared war on vehicles left idling — giving citizens the ability to report any automobile they saw running so the city can come and fine them for unnecessary air pollution. As an incentive for snitches, the city said it would be willing to share a quarter of the revenue it accrued via the bust.
With fines starting at $350, this has reportedly allowed citizens to effectively turn the hobby of squealing to the cops a full-time profession. A few are even getting pretty wealthy off the Citizens Air Complaint Program by providing authorities with sufficient documentation to make sure the financial penalties stick. But there are some glaring problems with the overarching scheme.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is reportedly investigating whether stock sales by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his brother, Kimbal Musk, violated insider-trading rules.
Launched in 2021, the probe is looking into shares sold by Kimbal valued at $108 million one day before Elon polled Twitter to see whether or not he should offload 10 percent of his stake in the company, suggesting he would run with the results. Though the tweet itself was a snide way of discussing proposals from Democrat legislators that would have imposed new taxes on unrealized capital gains, effectively money that doesn’t yet (and may never) exist.
New Yorkers with aftermarket exhaust systems may want to be extra careful because a law, signed by Governor Kathy Hochul to increase fines on sound violations, now has a new enforcement tool designed to spot noisemakers.
Approved in autumn of 2021, the SLEEP (Stop Loud and Excessive Exhaust Pollution) Act raised the fine on vehicles producing excess sound in NY from $150 to a whopping $1,000. But drivers are now learning that getting busted won’t necessarily require whizzing past a squad car while their Borla snap-crackle-and-pops surrounding eardrums. NYC residents have begun receiving notices in the mail after being caught by the auditory equivalent of speed cameras.
Hertz customers have issued complaints that the company falsely accused them of stealing rental cars. Numerous renters have made claims that they were stopped by police to be informed that the vehicle they had paid to borrow was reported stolen. Complaints became so prevalent that CBS News launched an investigative report last November to uncover whether individuals were simply lying about their innocence to avoid prosecution or if Hertz was habitually screwing things up.
By December, 191 claims had been filed in federal bankruptcy court on behalf of the people who said they were falsely arrested. But it took another two months for a Delaware bankruptcy court judge to issue a ruling that will require Hertz to make the number of renters it accuses of stealing its cars every year publicly available.
Mexican and Canadian officials have been dropping hints that they’re not all that enthusiastic about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) since before Enrique Peña Nieto, Donald Trump, and Justin Trudeau all sat down to sign it in 2018. But just getting to that point required months of formal negotiations that rarely looked to be all that productive.
Sadly, things don’t seem to have changed now that the USMCA is in full effect. Last week, Mexico requested a dispute settlement panel under the terms of the trade pact to help resolve disagreements about the surprisingly contentious automotive content stipulations that determine whether or not vehicles and parts will be slapped with tariffs. Under the previous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 62.5 percent of the vehicle’s components had to be sourced from member nations to be considered tax-exempt. In an effort to spur localized production, USMCA increased that number to 75 and not everyone is thrilled with the updated content requirements with Mexico claiming it’s not even sure how to apply them. Canada now intends to formally sign onto Mexico’s complaint against the U.S. over their divergent interpretation of rules.
Nikola Corp. has agreed to pay $125 million to settle charges levied by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the company actively defrauded investors by providing misleading information about its technical prowess, production capabilities, and general prospects.
The settlement comes after a salvo of civil and criminal charges were launched against Nikola’s founder Trevor Milton, who got in trouble for convincing investors that the prospective automaker had fully functional prototypes boasting technologies other companies would have envied when that wasn’t actually the case. Milton was chided for using social media to promote false claims about the business, with his pleading not guilty to fraud charges brought up by the Department of Justice in July.