Catalytic converter theft: what you need to know

Catalytic converter theft from cars isn’t a new crime, but it has increased significantly in recent times.

Police forces around the UK, including those in West Yorkshire, London and Nottinghamshire, are advising owners of any car fitted with a catalytic converter to take precautions.

Any car fitted with a catalytic converter within the exhaust system could be at risk. In the case of Lexus, we are aware that the second-generation Lexus RX 400h models (2005-2008) and the Lexus CT 200h have been a target for thieves.

Below we’ve gathered the best advice for Lexus owners who may be concerned.

What is a catalytic converter? 

The catalytic converter is part of the car’s emissions control system. It cleans up the exhaust gases before they are expelled from the car through the exhaust pipe. Its internal elements react with the gases, breaking them down into less harmful substances and water vapour. All cars sold in Europe since 1993 have had to be fitted with catalytic converter by law.

Why are they a target for thieves?

The police are best placed to offer advice on the motivation behind crimes. But we understand that the recycling value of catalytic converters is the primary attraction to thieves because it contains precious metals such as rhodium, platinum and palladium.

What is Lexus doing to stop its cars being targeted?

In May 2021, Lexus (GB) announced that it would be covertly marking more than 100,000 catalytic converters in order to combat theft. By working with police and Smartwater, catalytic converters can be tagged with an invisible yet traceable marking, meaning that a stolen catalytic converter can be traced to a specific crime, helping police in their attempts to fight the organised gangs responsible. It also raises the risk to all those handling the devices along the criminal chain, from theft to eventual disposal and recycling.

It is free to get the catalytic converter marked, all customers need to do is call their local Toyota or Lexus retailer to arrange a visit.

In addition to this, Lexus has issued 20,000 Smartwater kits to police to support their local anti-catalyst theft initiatives. The company is also working with the AA, Toyota’s roadside partner, so its patrols can point customers to where they can get a free kit.

We have also developed and reduced the price of a ‘Catloc’ device which can deter theft and make it more difficult. Lexus teams in the UK and other countries are urgently exploring new technical possibilities to deter criminals as well.

We are working with the police, as well as talking to government about changes in the law around scrap metal sales that would make it harder for criminals to sell stolen catalysts for cash.

However, these are criminal operations and our scope is therefore limited. A number of police forces are taking action and some forces, such as Nottinghamshire, are also starting awareness campaigns. It is vitally important for anyone who is a victim of this crime to report it to their local police force as quickly as possible.

In the main, it remains older cars that are targeted because advances in efficiency and technology mean the latest generations of Lexus catalytic converters contain vastly lower amounts of precious metals, whilst still doing their job just as well or even better; this means their value for recycling is very low and they are not attractive to thieves.

We’re doing all we can. We’ve shared police guidance with customers, and are seeking technical solutions, although for obvious reasons we would like to refrain from talking about specifics.

We are also working with the police, as well as talking to government about changes in the law around scrap metal sales that would make it harder for criminals to sell stolen catalysts for cash.

However, these are criminal operations and our scope is therefore limited. A number of police forces are taking action and some forces, such as Nottinghamshire, are also starting awareness campaigns. It is vitally important for anyone who is a victim of this crime to report it to their local police force as quickly as possible.

In the main it remains older cars that are targeted because advances in efficiency and technology mean the latest generations of Lexus catalytic converters contain vastly lower amounts of precious metals, whilst still doing their job just as well or even better; this means their value for recycling is very low and they are not attractive to thieves.

How much does it cost to replace a catalytic converter?

Our priority is to do all we can to support Lexus customers who have been the victims of catalytic converter theft.

We have reduced the prices of catalytic converters to a level where Lexus UK does not make any profit from their supply to customers.

Your nearest Lexus centre can advise on exact costs after inspecting your vehicle.

How long will I have to wait for replacement parts?

The rapid rise in this crime is one we could not have envisaged set against many years of low incidence of thefts. It has impacted our ability to source a sufficient quantity of replacement parts, for which we sincerely apologise.

However, we are taking urgent action with our suppliers to secure increased supplies, which we hope will allow us to effectively tackle the supply issue and repair customers’ cars more quickly.

Who can I contact if I’m worried about my Lexus?

If you are worried about potential catalytic converter theft from your Lexus, we recommend you use our locator tool to find your nearest Lexus centre and contact them to discuss the best way to protect your car.

This article was last updated on 14 May 2021, so some of the responses to reader comments below have been superseded by more recent information.

620 comments

  1. Which models of the RX450H do Lexus provide a CatLoc for?
    I would appreciate a definitive answer to my question.
    Furthermore, my understanding is that the RX450H has been less of a target for thieves than other models, is this still the case in Mid 2022?
    Are there differences in the amount of precious metals used in the different RX450H generations?
    I look forward to your reply.

    1. Hello Jay,
      Thanks for your comment.
      Currently, a CATLOC is available for RX 450h models produced between October 2009 and September 2015.
      These have the ‘GYL15’ model code.
      Over time, we have reduced the precious metal content of our catalytic converters by up to 84%.
      This means that newer RX 450h models are not being targeted.
      Thanks.

  2. My Cat was stolen from my Lexus RX400h recently.
    What would be the cost of replacement?
    Reg: TT02MCR

    1. Hello Michael,
      We are sorry to hear that you have been affected by this horrible crime.
      The cost of the repairs will depend on the extent of the damage caused by the thieves.
      Your Lexus Centre will be best placed to provide you with a quote.
      Thanks.

  3. Mine got stolen last night from a hotel parking lot. I have Lexus CT 200h for 5years but oh man, I am selling mine just after repairs. Unfortunately, never going to get a hybrid again 🙁

    1. Hello Vijay,
      We are really sorry to hear that you have been affected by this crime.
      If there is anything else we can do to help, please let us know.
      Thanks.

  4. My catalytic converter was stolen from the secure hospital carpark at 2pm on a weekday, it was in full cctv view. The police state that the thieves were masked so not identifiable and they used false plates on their vehicle. They disabled the alarm and were out of the car park in 5 minutes. It was clear by the cctv footage that The car was targeted as it was a lexus hybrid.

    Lexus Leicester are charging £150 for a cat loc and £350 to fit the lock. This is on top of the £400 I have had to pay for the insurance excess.

    To say that Lexus IS not making a profit on this crime is at most dubious. How are customers expected to protect themselves againstorganised criminals. And where is Lexus’s corporate responsibility ?

    1. Hello Sarah,
      We are sorry to hear that you have been affected by this crime.
      Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to stop determined and brazen organised criminals using power tools to take what they want.
      Ultimately, this is a criminal issue and we’ve been working with and supporting the Police, both publicly and behind the scenes to help put a stop to this awful crime.
      If there is anything else we can do to help, please let us know.
      Thanks.

      1. Thank you for your response,

        My question is why Lexus is not fitting the catlocks in their garages for free?

        1. Hello Sarah,
          The CATLOC requires labour to fit.
          These are provided at zero profit to Lexus UK.
          Thanks.

  5. CAT been stolen from my RX. 6/7- June 2022. I had indicated on the call to Lexus breakdown centre for my car to be taken to Woodford centre (where it supposed to be serviced on the 25 June appointment) but Lexus Woodford have refused to accept the car. Neither staff from Lexus centre neither staff from the AA garage informed me about this situation. After one day I was looking for updates/information but found out about this unbelievable attitude.

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