Amazon Prime Day 2024

Surging mineral prices could provoke more catalytic converter theft

And in some places it's already out of control

Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey proposed putting 50 minerals on a list of those critical to U.S. national security, two of them being palladium and platinum, both crucial to vehicle catalytic converters. The world's second-largest producer of palladium last year? Russia, providing nearly 40% of the world's supply. The world's second-largest producer of platinum? Russia, providing a more meager 10.4% of global supply. The country's war in Ukraine, which is slowly turning Russia into the North Korea of Europe, has pushed palladium prices to historic highs and got platinum near the historic high it reached last February. We'd say that those prices, in turn, could push the rates of catalytic converter theft beyond anything previously seen, but this scenario has already happened. So really what we're saying is: It could get worse. 

Last year, figures from the National Insurance Crime Bureau put the number of catalytic converter thefts at 108 per month on average in 2018, 282 per month on average in 2019, and 1,203 per month on average in 2020. Public records search company Been Verified analyzed theft data for 2021, finding a monthly average theft rate that rose more than 400% to 5,200 per month. A mechanic in Chapel Hill, North Carolina — not a national hotbed for thefts — said he replaced more catalytic converters in the first four months of 2021 than he did in all of 2020. The Dallas Police Department and the New York City Police Department both saw rises of around 300% in each city in 2021.    

As The Drive notes, the Russian government is meant to be drawing up a list of goods that will be banned from export or at least restricted. No one knows what materials will get red-marked, but prices for wheat, aluminum, and palladium rose after Russian president Vladimir Putin merely gave the order to create the list. The price chart for nickel — also a major Russian export, also on the USGS list, also responsible for Tesla raising its prices recently, and also not banned yet — shot up like a cliff wall starting this month, and Russia only provides roughly 10% of world supply. All of this is why Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess said the war in Ukraine could be "very much worse" for European markets than the pandemic.

So protect your catalytic converters; park in a theft deterrent spot, have your converter etched with your license plate number, buy a cage for it, something. The converter only takes a few minutes to steal, and sure, the thief will only get a few hundred, but it will cost well more than $1,000 to replace. You don't want to have to add "My car's jewels got robbed" to your 2022 Bingo card. 

Related Video

Share This Photo X