WASHINGTON — The National Automobile Dealers Association on Wednesday applauded the Senate introduction of legislation that would help law enforcement combat an alarming rise in catalytic converter thefts in the U.S.
Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Ron Wyden of Oregon introduced the bill — known as the Preventing Auto Recycling Theft, or PART, Act — in September following an earlier effort this year in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The bill aims to reduce catalytic converter thefts by requiring new vehicles to have the VIN stamped onto the converter, allowing law enforcement officers to link stolen parts to the originating vehicles.
The bill also would create a grant program to allow dealers, repair shops and other eligible parties to stamp VINs onto converters of existing vehicles and establish federal criminal penalties for theft, sale, trafficking or known purchases of stolen catalytic converters of up to five years in jail.
"Catalytic converter theft is out of control nationwide," NADA President and CEO Mike Stanton said in a statement. "Because converters currently can't be traced and laws are different from state to state, criminals see catalytic converter theft as easy money. This is a huge issue for dealerships and consumers alike."
The Senate bill has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. It does not yet have Republican support.
In the U.S., catalytic converters are being stolen at increasingly higher rates because they contain costly precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium and are not easily traceable.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau said there were 14,433 catalytic converter thefts reported in the U.S. in 2020 compared with 3,389 cases in 2019. In 2018, there were just 1,298 thefts reported.
Stolen converters can go for up to $350 each on the black market, NADA said, but can cost vehicle owners as much as $2,500 to replace.
"Catalytic converter thefts have skyrocketed nationwide since the pandemic began, and because these are property crimes, there is very little deterrent for the individuals committing these acts," David Glawe, CEO of the National Insurance Crime Bureau, said in a statement. "Congress must act to make stealing a catalytic converter a felony and introduce stiffer penalties to deter would-be criminals from committing these acts in the first place."
U.S. Rep. Jim Baird, R-Ind., introduced the PART Act in January. It has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce and has bipartisan support from more than 40 lawmakers.
In May, NADA and 12 other trade groups sent a letter to Democratic and Republican leadership on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, urging lawmakers to hold a hearing on the measure.