Toyota Prius Targeted By Catalytic Converter Thieves In California

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This has caused a serious problem for owners across the state.

Toyota Prius drivers across California are facing lengthy wait times as their hybrid vehicles continue to be the target of catalytic converter thieves.

Over the last few years, catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed. These crucial components are made up of several rare metals (such as palladium), which, in recent times, have increased in value. Criminals have taken advantage of this, liberating catalytic converters from cars nationwide and establishing unsavory enterprises worth millions of dollars.

Prius owners are worst affected; thieves target these hybrids as their cats contain a greater concentration of these metals. The Los Angeles Times reports victims must contend with long delivery times for replacement parts. Some have been waiting months for a new catalytic converter to arrive.

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Long Beach resident Vanessa Reimer told the LA Times that she assumed the repair would take a few weeks, but then some bad news arrived - her dealer told her the new part could take up to six months to arrive. "At first, I thought there must be something I could do," said Reimer. She soon released this was not the case.

Scores of Prius drivers were confronted with the same bad news. Another unfortunate customer, 25-year-old Anwar Glasgow, found himself in a quandary after the catalytic converter was stolen from his 2021 Prius in January. A Toyota service center told him the repair would take six months - now the car may only be ready in October.

He described the theft as "[feeling] like being kicked while you're down. It is pretty demoralizing."

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While his insurance is covering the repair, Glasgow is now left without a car as the insurance won't total the Prius or provide a rental car for longer than a month. He now commutes to work on foot or on a skateboard.

The publication contacted several Toyota parts departments in Southern California to get to the center of the problem. Most admitted that the part wasn't even available, while others said the wait could be as long as nine months. One Toyota employee told the Times that "there are thousands on back order."

Partial theft reports for older Prius models have increased by 850% in California, reports the Highway Loss Data Institute, and that's just in a two-year period. Catalytic converter thefts are also on the up, with Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore noting 406 more reported cases in the first five weeks of 2023 than last year.

2016-2018 Toyota Prius Three Quarter Front Left Side View In Motion Toyota

It's a tricky problem with no obvious solution. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved just a handful of catalytic converters for older Prius models. Toyota charges $1,800, while Magnaflow sells the component for considerably more, at $2,800. Unsurprisingly, both are out of stock.

And it's not a matter of making more catalytic converters, either. Catalytic converters are challenging to manufacture owing to their unique materials. Let's not forget that automakers are still battling supply-chain issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once newly-manufactured catalytic converters arrive, carmakers have to choose between the replacement part market and the new vehicle market - and new cars almost always take priority. While new cars remain the target of criminals, measures are being put in place to prevent this from happening in the future. The new Prius, for example, is available with a $140 "Cat Shield," which protects the component from thieves.

2023 Toyota Prius Rear Perspective Driving Toyota

In California, where these thefts appear to be the most common, the government has introduced new laws to mitigate this problem. Lawmakers introduced the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft Act (PART) earlier this year, requiring all new vehicles to emboss the VIN onto the catalytic converter.

This will make it more challenging for criminals to sell the part to scrapyards and auto shops, but it will also make it easier for law enforcement officials to link stolen parts to the targeted vehicle. Individuals will face penalties for trafficking, theft, sale, or purchase of these catalytic converters.

Last year, California also introduced legislation that makes it illegal to purchase converters from anyone but licensed dealers or auto dismantlers. Whether this helps remains to be seen, as criminals always find a way around laws and regulations.


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