My precious! Rising metal prices prompt catalytic converter thefts

Published:  26 May, 2021

The sharp increase in the value of rhodium, platinum and palladium is behind a rising wave of catalytic converter thefts, with hybrids particularly targeted, and garages should be extra vigilant if they have vehicles stored overnight on-site.

Palladium is currently pound-for-pound worth more than gold. This fact has pushed the price of a catalytic converter in the shadow economy to over £500. Meanwhile, Rhodium begun 2020 with a value of more than £4,000 per t oz before snowballing by 210% over the next 12 months. China is one the main consumers of Rhodium and its light vehicle market growth, combined with new emission standards, means world demand for Rhodium has increased dramatically.

Plug-in and self-charging hybrid vehicles are a prime target because their catalytic converters, tend to be less corroded than on petrol and diesel vehicles. The Toyota Auris, Toyota Prius, Honda Jazz and Honda Accord are reported by Leicester police to be particularly vulnerable to catalytic converter theft. Taller 4x4 vehicles are also favoured by thieves due to the converters being more accessible.

Working in partnership with its catalytic converter supplier BM Catalysts, PartsinMotion.co.uk is also looking to raise awareness of the problem and the resulting impact on air quality. Matt Gates of Partsinmotion.co.uk said: “Rhodium is key in reducing harmful vehicle emissions, particularly Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), so thefts from vehicles has wider complications for air quality. Replacement catalysts must also meet any relevant durability, noise and vehicle performance requirements.”

Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison at Stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) specialists Tracker also observed: “Criminals can remove catalytic converters in seconds, leaving vehicle owners with an average replacement bill of £1,300 and insurance headaches. Costs can soar if the vehicle is written off by the damage caused by thieves stripping converters from the exhaust. Police forces across the UK are committed to tackling the increase in catalytic converter thefts and the organised gangs behind them; just last month, more than 300 Metropolitan police officers took part in an early morning operation across London to smash what is believed to be a criminal network fuelling an increase in the thefts of catalytic converters across the city.”

Clive added: “Physical barriers do make thieves think twice before targeting a vehicle, and there are devices owners can install such an alarm that activates if the vehicle is lifted or tilted. There are also catalytic converter protection devices and marking systems available to purchase.”

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