Oct 26, 2022
Recently, one of our Kunes dealerships in Madison, Wisconsin, had 16 catalytic converters stolen off vehicles on the lot. The vehicles stolen were all Mitsubishi Outlander Sports. Nine of them were new and the rest a range of used models.
The job was completed by two suspects and took just under an hour. With theft of catalytic converters skyrocketing due to their value, here’s a rundown of what they are, how they work, and how to prevent your vehicle from being a target.
What is a catalytic converter?
Since 1975, catalytic converters were introduced and installed on vehicles, turning toxic fumes from the vehicle’s engine into less harmful gasses for the environment. They play a large role in reducing air pollution from gas-powered vehicles, including hybrids and trucks. The first widespread introduction of catalytic converters was in the United States to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s stricter regulation of exhaust emissions.
Why is theft of catalytic converters on the rise?
Catalytic converters are incredibly easy to steal because of their external location. Since they’re made with valuable precious metals, including platinum, palladium and rhodium, catalytic converter thieves are ripping them from cars at an increasing rate.
Removing a catalytic converter takes only minutes using some basic, readily available, battery-operated tools from a local hardware store. A stolen catalytic converter can generate hundreds of dollars, according to a 2021 report by the Congressional Research Service, and could cost an owner $3,000 to replace the part – not to mention finding alternate transportation.
As the value of the precious metals remains high, so do the number of thefts of these devices. There is a clear connection between times of crisis, limited resources, and disruption of the supply chain that drives these thefts.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, “The values of the precious metals contained inside catalytic converters today is staggering. As of March 2022, rhodium sits at $20,000 per ounce; palladium at $2,938 per ounce; and platinum at $1,128 per ounce.”
Which vehicles have been targeted the most?
Carfax used data from catalytic converter replacement service records from 2019 through the first three months of 2020 to compile a list of the car models most likely targeted by thieves. Here is a sample of their findings.