Here's how Toyota is making catalytic converters harder to steal.
Automakers are investing billions of dollars to develop more environmentally-friendly electric cars, but gasoline-powered cars are still dominating sales unless you live in Norway. One way to reduce emissions on a gas guzzler is to fit a catalytic converter that cleans the exhaust gases, but this has some drawbacks. Gearheads will protest that catalytic converters reduce a car's performance, but they are also becoming the target of organized criminals. Thefts of catalytic converters have seen a sharp rise over the last few years due to the increasing value of the precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium inside them that are then illegally sold by criminals. But Toyota has a cunning plan to reduce these thefts.
In the UK, Toyota is spending more than £1 million ($1.4 million) to covertly mark more than 100,000 catalytic converters on older cars like the Prius.
Initially, a batch of 50,000 kits will be developed by a company called Smartwater that manufactures police-approved marking kits. These kits add invisible markings that can trace stolen catalytic converters to a specific crime, helping police track and arrest thieves. The service will be free for all Toyota and Lexus owners, who simply need to contact their local dealer to arrange for the marking to be fitted.
Thieves are targeting older Toyota and Lexus hybrid models because the catalysts are put under less stress than a non-electrified car and are in better condition as a result. This also makes it harder for Toyota to contact owners because some older models may no longer be a part of its retailer network.
Toyota has already issued 20,000 Smartwater kits to police and is working with the AA roadside assistance company to help encourage customers to get a free kit.
"Catalytic converter theft is a very serious problem in the UK and the effects on victims of this crime are emotional as well as financial. We're pleased to be starting this initiative, working closely with the police, not only to help them with their efforts to combat this crime but also to send a clear message to criminals that if they choose to target a Toyota or Lexus car there is now a far higher chance of getting caught," said Rob Giles, Director of Customer Services at Toyota UK.