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.
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