Dealership theft: How dealerships can protect their lots from catalytic converter theft

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Dealerships be warned: the theft of catalytic converters has been on the rise across Canada since 2020. And there’s no sign of it slowing down any time soon.

  • In Edmonton, 235 catalytic converters were reported stolen from dealership locations in 2018. Detective Daniel Leach of the Edmonton Police Service told Global News that number of stolen catalytic converters has more than doubled every year since then. “This kind of theft is pretty much rampant throughout the city of Edmonton,” he said.
  • Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) claims data reveals that approximately 150 catalytic converter theft-related claims are reported monthly. In April 2022 alone, that number of catalytic converter thefts was over 300.
  • Five catalytic converters were stolen from the parking lot of a Guelph, Ontario business in July 2022. The local police force says there have been dozens of similar thefts reported in this mid-sized city this year alone.

Why are car catalytic converters stolen?

The shell-like part that fits around a vehicle’s exhaust pipe is not particularly valuable itself, but savvy thieves know that the precious metals inside the catalytic converter, including rhodium, palladium and platinum, can be melted down and sold on the black market for a handsome profit.

"Rhodium is about $19,000 an ounce, more than 10 times the value of gold," R. Michael Jones, CEO of Platinum Group Metals, told CTV News in February 2021. "Palladium is about $2,200 and platinum is about $1,300 an ounce."

A practiced thief needs a mere 2-3 minutes to slide under a car and remove the catalytic converter.

What kind of vehicles are targeted?

Generally, taller vehicles such as SUVs, pick-up trucks and RVs are easier for thieves to get under and remove the catalytic converter. However, reports of theft go well beyond larger vehicles. Detective Leach says they see their share of Honda Civics and Accords being hit in Edmonton by catalytic converter thefts.

“We also see [that] hybrid vehicles tend to be the most lucrative for thieves because they don’t use as much of the precious metals during run time so when the catalytic converters are taken from those, they are generally getting higher prices as opposed to older vehicles,” he said.

MPI notes that the top five vehicles targeted in Manitoba are:

  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Honda CR-V
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Kia Sportage
  • Mitsubishi RVR

The average cost to repair a vehicle that’s had its catalytic converter removed is about $2,000, including of a new one.

What can dealerships do to increase security and prevent catalytic converter thefts?

Auto dealerships are a target-rich environment as thieves have many vehicles to choose from.  SUVs, trucks and other vehicles that are higher off the ground and those that are placed in vulnerable positions (e.g. on jacks, in car haulers) are especially vulnerable. Fortunately, this is not an issue for electric vehicles since they do not have a catalytic converter.

The optimal way to prevent converter theft is to control access to the vehicles by parking them in a garage and/or having a dedicated watch service onsite. The watch service could include commercial surveillance cameras to capture video footage and increase vehicle security. If a garage is not available, vehicles should be stored in secured yard with a combination of high fencing, good lighting, random patrols.

Tips to protect your catalytic converter

Other methods to deter theft and to protect your vehicle include:

  • Installing a motion/tilt alarm on the vehicle (the alarm knows the vehicle has changed position)
  • Weld the catalytic converter to the vehicle for more difficult removal
  • Install catalytic protection devices that clamp around catalytic converters
  • Etch the VIN number on the catalytic convertor or add another marking to make it easy to identify if it’s stolen
  • Ensure CCTV cameras are enabled
  • Install motion sensitive lights around parking lots

Looking for ways to keep your dealership safe from catalytic converter theft?

Aviva Risk Management Solutions has risk consultants across Canada to provide our customers with expert advice and resources. Reach out to us at arms.canada@aviva.com.


 

Sources:

Global News Morning Edmonton, November 2021: https://globalnews.ca/video/8374456/ask-the-expert-tips-for-protecting-your-vehicle-from-catalytic-converter-theft

Canadian Underwriter, July 2022:  https://www.canadianunderwriter.ca/insurance/catalytic-converter-theft-a-growing-problem-for-auto-insurers-1004223964/

Global News, April 2022: https://globalnews.ca/news/8743038/catalytic-converter-theft-guelph-ont/

CTV News, February 2021: https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/police-warn-of-spike-in-catalytic-converter-thefts-thanks-to-valuable-metals-1.5328129?cache=hnntydarxiuz

Autoweek, February 2022: https://www.autoweek.com/gear/g39175840/protect-your-catalytic-converter-anti-theft/

The content in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as professional or expert advice.

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