Toyota to mark components in fight against catalytic converter theft

Toyota is spending more than £1 million to covertly mark more than 100,000 parts on older cars in the UK that may be susceptible to catalytic converter theft. The service is free to owners.

The theft of catalytic converters has grown hugely in recent years thanks to the significant rise in the price of some precious metals inside the devices, which are used to clean exhaust gases and reduce pollution.

Many manufacturers are affected by what police call “a co-ordinated, organised crime linked to other serious forms of offending”.

Toyota is working with police and Smartwater, which manufactures police-approved  marking kits, to provide an initial batch of 50,000 kits. The markings, which are invisible, mean a stolen catalytic converter can be traced to a specific crime, helping police in their attempts to fight the organised gangs responsible. It also raises the risk to all those handling the devices along the criminal chain, from theft to eventual disposal and recycling.

Thieves are targeting older hybrid models as the catalyst in a hybrid has a lower workload than in a non-electrified vehicle, meaning it is in better condition. This particularly affects Toyota and sister-brand Lexus models, with the Japanese marque pioneering the technology

Police matter

Because thieves are predominantly targeting older models this presents a challenge for Toyota in contacting owners of cars which may no longer be regularly seen by its retail network.

To help with this, Toyota has issued 20,000 Smartwater kits to police to support their local anti-catalyst theft initiatives. The company is also working with the AA, Toyota’s road-side partner, so its patrols can point customers to where they can 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,” commented Rob Giles, Toyota (GB) director of Customer Services. “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.”

Gone to scrap

Toyota also hopes that the marking programme will dissuade rogue scrap metal dealers who are happy to pay cash for stolen converters, now that the risk of being caught is greater than ever before.

“We know from our work with police and others that the solution to this crime is not only arresting those doing the stealing, but also making life harder for those buying the stolen goods,” Giles added. “We hope this will help in that.”

Toyota has also restarted production lines in Japan and France that made catalysts for many of the older models targeted in order to supply affected owners, developed a Catloc security device which helps deter theft (and has been granted a “Sold Secure with Gold Status” security ranking) and ensured it makes no profit at all from the sale of replacement catalysts or from Catlocs, providing them at cost.

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