As the price of palladium increases, so too may theft.
In response to Vladimir Putin's highly controversial invasion of Ukraine, a slew of automakers have taken to cutting ties with the former Soviet nation, with companies such as Volvo and General Motors suspending business to stand in solidarity with Ukraine.
What's more, Volkswagen, which operates two factories in Russia, has halted local production until further notice. VW's Kaluga plant builds the Tiguan, among other cars not available in the US, and also assembles the Audi Q7 and Q8.
While these efforts are admirable, Russia is the world's biggest source of a precious metal used in the manufacturing of catalytic converters. According to The Drive, the country is the largest exporter of palladium, exporting over 100 tons last year.
Efforts to curb the violent invasion have seen sanctions enforced on Russia and, although none have been directly placed on Norilsk Nickel (a company essentially in control of approximately 40% of the world's palladium supply), regional restrictions may yet have a serious impact on supply.
The publication notes that the precious metal has seen high demand in the past few years, as manufacturers face stringent emissions requirements. This has caused a surge in pricing, with palladium often trading for more than gold over the last three years. While the potential ramifications for the car industry could be dire, a price increase could result in higher demand and, as a result, increased theft.
In 2021, a spate of catalytic converter thefts saw elderly car owners faced with hefty replacement bills. One Jeep Liberty owner noticed something was wrong when the SUV was uncharacteristically loud. The elderly motorist was faced with a $4,000 replacement bill. If the value skyrockets as a result of the invasion, expect incidents of theft to rise as well.
The Drive continues, noting that if Putin goes through with banning the exportation of various materials from Russia, the price could skyrocket. If palladium is one of the banned metals, not only will the automotive industry lose the world's largest supplier, but the market price would skyrocket.
Those with sticky fingers won't be able to help themselves from stealing catalytic converters as it would be worth a pretty penny at scrapyards and seedy recycling depots. Of course, it's the consumer who loses out the most, struggling to find replacement parts and then being forced to pay exorbitant prices on top of the hassle.
Aside from engraving your vehicle's VIN into the catalytic converter, there's not much you can do. Law enforcement has said that painting the component in brighter colors may deter theft, too. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, Russia will retreat from Ukraine and the world will regain some sense of normality. But, for now, we'd suggest keeping an eye on your exhaust.