Last week, the Bill Barth Kia dealership reported that they were the target of a thief that stole three catalytic converters and damaged four other vehicles in a single night. The Bismarck, ND dealership has been hit twice before for catalytic converters which Travis Barth says can cost “around $2,500” to replace.
The problem is compounded for Barth as the replacement parts are in short supply. He says, “Not only is it frustrating that we have to spend that much money on a new vehicle and can’t sell it, but with the parts, there is really no estimated ship date. So, these vehicles end up sitting in the back lot waiting for parts to show up.”
In Irving, TX, Don Herring Mitsubishi was also hit around the same time. In a matter of about 20 minutes, the thief buzzed through the exhaust pipes of 20 vehicles, making away with their catalytic converters. That thief was confronted by someone who heard the noise from their saw and called police, but the suspect continued through the lot cutting off catalytic converters and made their getaway.
For Don Herring Mitsubishi, the suspect strategically parked where it’s dark in a late-model Ford pickup – not exactly the vehicle you’d expect to see a scrap metal-selling thief use. The dealer has been hit at locations in Plano and Dallas too.
To prevent catalytic converter thefts, Herring’s begin to install deterrents that wrap around the highly-popular component, but even that has been harder to procure lately.
Vehicle protection on the lot
These reports from dealers are all too familiar for many other auto retailers, both new and used. With devices to secure the catalytic converter hard to find and expensive to install – and only truly effective if every vehicle has one – it’s a challenge for dealerships to protect not just their own inventory, but the vehicles of service and collision center customers too. Because very vehicle on the lot can be a target, it’s vexing how to protect each one cost-effectively.
Coverage from high-quality security cameras
Most dealers now have security cameras covering both the building and the lot. However, the suspect in Irving, TX was able to avoid identification by parking in a dimly-lit area where cameras couldn’t help make an identification. To keep security systems affordable or in instances where early adopters were ahead of availability, many aren’t equipped with night vision capabilities.
An upgrade to surveillance cameras that have nocturnal modes or night vision can help authorities identify suspects or their vehicles, but it’s usually too late – the damage has been done.
Security on the lot
An increased presence of security could be the preventative method for dealerships. While it might seem like an unnecessary expense when you aren’t experiencing issues with theft4 and vandalism, it proves the efficacy of security detail. It can pay to hire a security company to patrol your lot alone, or share with neighboring dealers to lower the cost.
Tag the components
Dealerships have been resorting to engraving each catalytic converter for a theft deterrent. It’s a relatively low-cost option and might prove to be effective to reduce the likelihood of thefts in the long term. However, it’s dependent on the thieves’ inability to sell the engraved components.
Along with engraving the catalytic converter, make inroads with local scrapyards where thieves might be selling the parts. When they’re on the lookout for stolen car parts, they can either refuse to purchase them or call police if the provenance can’t be proven for single or multiple catalytic converters coming from sellers.
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