Japanese thieves target Prius hybrids for platinum and palladium

Electric vehicle charging. (Reference image by Ivan Radic, Flickr).

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius hybrids are being targeted by thieves in Japan for components containing scarce metals that jumped in value following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

There were 173 thefts of mufflers or catalytic converters in Chiba prefecture last year, 16 times more than in 2021, according to local police. About 90% of those were from Prius’s, they said.

Thefts of catalytic converters, exhaust emission control devices that reduce pollution, have risen across the world over the last few years in tandem with increases in the prices of platinum and palladium that are contained in them. Older Prius models contain more of those metals than many other cars, making them a prime target.

The war in Ukraine provided a further price bounce, as Russia accounts for about 40% of the world’s freshly mined palladium and is also a significant platinum producer.

Palladium prices spiked shortly after the invasion of Ukraine. They’ve since given up most of those gains but are still well above where they were last decade. Platinum also jumped early last year before declining, but then rallied sharply last quarter.

(By Masumi Suga)

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