Local dealerships take steps against catalytic converter theft

White Bear Mitsubishi service technician Aaron Wallace applies an identification label on a catalytic converter.

The theft of catalytic converters from parked vehicles has skyrocketed in the Twin Cities region, but a new pilot program from the Minnesota Automotive Dealers Association (MADA) aims to put a stop to these unchecked crimes. 

The MADA received a Minnesota Automobile Theft Prevention Grant from the state of Minnesota. The MADA was able to purchase 10,000 CatEtch labels with this funding. These labels, which are inscribed with the vehicle’s VIN, can be adhered to the underside of the catalytic converter, and are available to anyone who wants to protect their vehicle from theft. 

White Bear Mitsubishi, Buerkle Hyundai and Maplewood Toyota are three of nine Twin Cities dealerships that have received these labels. 

Catalytic converters, located on the underside of a vehicle, are designed to reduce the harmful air emissions produced by a combustion engine. Their construction includes small quantities of several precious metals such as platinum, palladium, rhodium and others. Criminals have learned that crawling under a car and removing the converter can earn them as much as $200 in the value of the metals with almost no repercussions. 

Catalytic converters are often manufactured three years in advance of the release of a new vehicle. This means that identifiable converters may not be a standardized solution for a few years yet. The label provides an effective short-term solution, explained Dan Louismet, general counsel for the MADA. 

“Even if they don’t deter theft, they provide a tool for both law enforcement and county prosecutors to actually go after the crooks,” Louismet said. 

Technicians also paint the converters in a bright color, to warn buyers that the parts may be stolen.

The loss of a catalytic converter can lay a vehicle owner up for weeks since replacement parts are not easy to obtain. Catalytic converters don’t usually fail, so there is no existing stock of backups. Replacing the part may take up to nine months in some cases. 

White Bear Mitsubishi owner Richard Herod emphasized that checking your insurance coverage is one of the most important things anyone can do to protect their vehicle. 

“They’ve really been victimized more than once,” Herod said. “Not only did something get stolen off their car, they have this deductible, and then they have nothing to drive. Educate yourself about your comprehensive insurance deductible,” he said. “Make sure you take a look at what your deductibles are for that type of vandalism.”

He also recommended car rental coverage, and that car owners check into getting a registration device or a protective clamp or shield installed.

“Local new car dealerships are at the forefront of helping their customers prevent catalytic converter theft and helping them get back on the road if and when they are the victim of a catalytic converter theft,” said Louismet. 

Anyone interested in receiving this free service can contact White Bear Mitsubishi or other participating dealerships to schedule a free appointment.

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