BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Catalytic converter thieves continue to run rampant through our communities and now they’re targeting new car dealers. Pair that with delays in the supply chain and many of these car lots are facing a double-whammy when it comes to meeting consumer demand.

The rows of mint-condition cars sitting outside of Bakersfield Hyundai have a treasure chest of precious metals right underneath them.

Patrick Beck is Bakersfield Hyundai’s Principal Dealer, his car lot has been hit by ruthless catalytic converter thieves, most recently last month.

“Most of the time we don’t know that the converters are stolen until we turn on the car,” Beck said.

Many of the car lots at Bakersfield’s Auto Mall have been the target of thieves lurking to score big all in one place. When a converter is stolen, it delays the sale of that vehicle and eventually drives away clients.

“The biggest problem is it takes the car or truck off the front line until we have it repaired,” Beck said.

Bakersfield already working to crack down on catalytic converter thieves. This week, the city council voted to move forward with drafting up an ordinance that would allow prosecutors to charge catalytic converter thieves with a misdemeanor if they can’t prove ownership.

Several bills are also working their way to Governor Newsom’s desk, hoping to deter the theft in the state. Assembly Bill 2682, would prohibit all vehicle dealers and retail sellers from selling vehicles equipped with a catalytic converter unless the converter has been engraved or permanently marked with the vehicle identification number (VIN). 

“They are in a tough spot,” Ward 7 Councilmember Chris Parlier said. “Some dealers have had approximately, in June, about 100 catalytic converter thefts.”

The Bakersfield City Council expects to have a first draft of the proposed ordinance targeting catalytic converter thefts at their August meeting.

The crime happens in under 2 minutes, criminals tend to target larger vehicles that are easy to slide under, where they saw away and get away with a catalytic converter.

“We do a lot of lifted trucks,” Beck said. “Thieves get under and get out but when the unit is secured, they abandon their task.”

Dealers hit the hardest in the area have had to take matters in their own hands. Beck says going the extra mile and securing converters to new cars has proven helpful.

But as the issue keeps growing, customers are driving away, and dollars are being lost.

“The frustrating part is that there is a market for this,” Beck said. “They are selling them for pennies on the dollar.”