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Fighting Back Against Catalytic Converter Theft: NAFA Urges Congress to Pass the PART Act

A catalytic converter can be stolen from a vehicle in under a minute, but the problems it can heap onto fleet managers can last weeks or even months in cost, lost time, and the inability to find replacement parts. Fleet managers report incurring substantial financial loss due to catalytic converter theft, a crime that has increased 300% year to year.

As part of its efforts to combat the dramatic rise in catalytic converter theft, NAFA has been actively working to convince Congress to hold a hearing on the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft (PART) Act. If enacted, the PART Act would deter theft and increase enforceability by regulating converter trade and codifying converter theft as a criminal offense.

The legislation works to reduce the thefts by:

  • Requiring new vehicles to have a VIN number stamped onto the catalytic converter during production;
  • Creating a grant program through which eligible entities can stamp VIN numbers onto the converters of non-stamped vehicles; and
  • Establishing detailed record-keeping standards for purchasers of used converters.

These provisions will work together to help law enforcement track individually owned converters and identify those involved in illegal trade. The legislation also makes it unlawful to sell or purchase catalytic converter parts that have had VIN numbers tampered with or removed and assesses criminal penalties for whoever steals and resells parts in interstate or foreign commerce.

In a March 2022 letter addressed to Representative James Baird (R-IN), NAFA endorsed the PART Act (H.R.6394), and thanked the Congressman for introducing legislation to combat the dramatic rise in catalytic converter theft. In a recent follow-up letter addressed to Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), NAFA joined the National Automobile Dealers Association and 11 other organizations representing a cross-section of the vehicle industry and other stakeholders to urge the Energy and Commerce Committee to support and hold a hearing on the PART Act. The letter was sent to leaders during National Police Week (May 11–17) to raise awareness of increasingly high catalytic converter theft.

The letter explained that catalytic converters are being stolen at increasingly higher rates because they contain valuable metals, such as rhodium, platinum, and palladium. “Thieves can easily steal catalytic converters from unattended vehicles, and since they are not readily traceable, there is a lucrative market for these stolen parts,” the letter explains. “These thefts are costing millions of dollars to businesses and vehicle owners alike. In addition, replacing a catalytic converter is costly and often difficult due to the part’s skyrocketing demand and supply chain shortages.”

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the number of catalytic converter thefts reported in insurance company claims sharply increased from 2019 to 2020, and 2021 is expected to break these records yet again. Some cities are reporting that catalytic converter thefts have tripled.

Because there are no traceable identifying marks on the catalytic converter, criminals can easily launder the parts by selling to local middlemen (called core buyers) who buy stolen parts and then sell to scrap yards or smelters. Stolen catalytic converters are worth from $20 to $350 each on the black market, while replacement can cost fleets as much as $2,500. Furthermore, the repairs often cost more because thieves damage the vehicle when stealing the catalytic converter.

The issue was particularly relevant during National Police Week because the PART Act is designed to help law enforcement fight more effectively against catalytic converter theft. “Because this crime frequently involves trafficking stolen parts across state lines, a federal framework is needed to aid the efforts of local law enforcement,” the letter explains. In addition to requiring new vehicles to have unique, traceable identifying numbers stamped on catalytic converters at the time of assembly, it establishes a federal criminal penalty for the theft, sale, trafficking or known purchase of stolen catalytic converters of up to five years in jail.

“The PART Act provides local law enforcement with the necessary support needed to combat rising catalytic converter theft,” states the letter. “We urge the House Energy and Commerce Committee to support and hold a hearing on this bipartisan legislation, H.R. 6394, to address this growing national problem which is affecting consumers and small businesses alike.”

NAFA will continue to advocate and build support for the PART Act in Congress. Access NAFA’s U.S. Legislative tracker for additional information on these developments and other policies NAFA is monitoring HERE.