Own a Prius? Hybrid vehicles targeted by thieves for their catalytic converters

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Dec. 20, 2022 at 3:59 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Thieves are still slicing and grabbing catalytic converters, selling the stolen part for profit.

Innocent car owners are left sitting idle, or with costly repair bills.

New data shows popular hybrid vehicles are top targets.

We investigate which models thieves are after, and how often it’s happening across Pima County.

“It’s flabbergasting,” said driver John Gibeau. “I don’t understand how you can be in a parking lot, next to a main artery road where hundreds of thousands of cars go by during the day and just hop under there, whistling away chopping off the catalytic converter.”

The owner of a local auto repair shop says thefts slowed for about a month. But the numbers are increasing again. Just last week three catalytic converters were taken from vehicles in his community parking lot.

“And it’s pretty obvious when it happens. You turn the key and it sounds like a tractor motor going off because there’s no exhaust on it,” said John Klippstein, owner of Klipper Automotive in Marana.

“To give you an example, we had one on film out in front of our store. They cut two catalytic converters off the car in 45-seconds.”

Klippstein had signs made, warning customers about leaving their vehicle parked in the community lot. He’s now keeping vehicles inside the building, especially overnight.

“Catalytic converters are part of the exhaust system. Here is the passenger side catalytic converter, and here is the driver’s side catalytic converter,” said Klippstein. “So what the thieves do is they have a saw, cut this pipe, cut that pipe. Drop it, they’re gone.”

Which vehicles are targeted the most?

According to Carfax, here are the most targeted vehicles on the West coast:

  1. 2001-21 Toyota Prius
  2. 1985-2021 Ford F-Series
  3. 1989-2020 Honda Accord
  4. 1990-2022 Ford Econoline
  5. 1999-2021 Chevrolet Silverado
  6. 2007-20 Subaru Outback
  7. 2007-17 Jeep Patriot
  8. 2003-11 Honda Element
  9. 1998-2020 Subaru Forester
  10. 1995-2021 Toyota Tacoma

The Prius and some newer model F-series trucks are hybrid vehicles. There’s a reason criminals are after them.

“They can get a little bit more money when they try to wholesale the converter to a scrap yard,” said Klippstein.

“That’s a shame. I’m aware of that. That’s why I park my car in my garage,” said Luis Yanez who owns a 2007 Toyota Prius.

His cab business would take a hit if his catalytic converter was taken.

“Big time because the money is going to come out of my pocket,” said Yanez. “I hear it’s about $4,000 to $5,000.”

So which areas are being hit the most?

Marana police tell us 100 catalytic converters have been sliced and grabbed since January.

Oro Valley police have taken 23 reports for auto-part thefts. Of those, about 10 are for catalytic converter thefts.

Tucson police say they don’t have solid numbers right now, however we’re told reported cases of theft have tailed off.

But Klippstein says auto repair shops are seeing an increase, working on vehicles with stolen catalytic converters more frequently.

“And it is almost epidemic proportions at this point,” said Klippstein.

Klippstein says consider etching your car’s VIN number on the catalytic converter to give it a fighting chance for tracking, welding a cage around it, or putting an anti-theft alarm on it.