A METAL found in car exhausts is now worth 20 times that of gold — sparking a surge of thefts across the UK.
Rhodium, which is used in catalytic converters, has shot up in value from £750 an ounce in 2014 to about £20,000 today.
Palladium, another metal found in the devices, is £1,688 an ounce — making them both pricier than gold, which sells for £1,230 an ounce.
And thieves can earn themselves £450 for every converter they steal — with gangs now raking in millions each year.
One theft was caught on a home security camera in Hurley, Warks. Two crooks pull up alongside a car parked on a driveway, jack it up, unbolt the converter and are on their way again in under two minutes.
Such a theft leaves car owners with a £1,000 repair bill.
One garage worker said: “We are seeing several customers a day bring cars into the garage because their cat converters have been nicked. It’s rife.
THEFTS WILL CONTINUE TO GROW
“We can’t make them quick enough at the moment to cope with the demand because so many are being stolen.”
Teams of thieves — usually in twos or threes — are targeting Toyotas, Hondas and Lexus vehicles and brazenly removing the converter.
Hybrid cars are favoured by thieves because the metals are less corroded, making them more valuable to unscrupulous scrap merchants.
Gangs have recently targeted dozens of vehicles outside homes in Stockport, Gtr Manchester, and those parked at supermarkets and hospitals.
Other areas hit include Stoke-on-Trent, Ely in Cambridgeshire, Marlow in Bucks, Southampton and Brighton.
Police figures show 13,000 catalytic converters were recorded as stolen in 2019, compared with 2,000 the previous year.
In 2018, Toyota replaced 52 catalytic converters at its dealerships — but the total climbed to 8,000 last year.
Experts fear the thefts will continue to grow.
A source said: “They get around £450 for each catalytic converter and will often do several in one night and dozens in a week.
“It’s not unheard of for them to make £20,000 a week — that’s up to £1million a year.
“Nationally, it is costing motorists and their insurers millions of pounds. It is so rife and lucrative that it should be viewed as organised crime.”