Car thieves targeting Toyota Prius owners in new trend

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Words: Matthew Hansen
23 Jun 2021

Car thieves have long been known to target certain nameplates while on the prowl, often either due to the value they can have on the black market or due to how easy they are to steal.

But, there’s a new trend in car thefts that specifically targets opposite ends of the spectrum — hybrids and big full-size American trucks. And, the trend has just hit New Zealand.

Both genres of vehicle come with more complex catalytic converters underneath, designed to lower emissions. These cars are packed with rare metals — including rhodium, platinum, and iridium — which makes them valuable to metal salvage firms.

The trend has been a big story in the US, where numerous videos of thieves stealing converters in very little time have gone viral. One theft that went viral earlier this month took the thieves less than 30 seconds. The vehicle was a Ford F-250.

Out of all the hybrids on the market, the Toyota Prius seems to be the most popular target — most likely because of where its converter is positioned and due to how ubiquitous they are. One search of videos of thefts on YouTube shows the Prius to be the most common target.

Having spiked significantly in the US and the UK (one firm claimed thefts increased by 104 per cent between 2019 and 2020), catalytic converter thefts are now also spiking right here.

According to the New Zealand Police, dozens of thefts have been recently reported in Canterbury. Their advice is for owners to consider installing CCTV and quality lighting if their car is parked outside.

"These thefts are occurring from vehicles parked in the open, on the side of the road and in some cases car yards and vehicle storage facilities,” said the New Zealand Police in a statement.

“The public are requested to call Police if they notice any unusual behaviour including people crawling under cars late at night.”


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