Catalytic converter theft has been on the rise, but few could have predicted its latest victim. Turns out, not even the Wienermobile is immune to the emissions device bandits. Low-lifes purloined the exhaust cleaner off of Oscar Mayer’s 27-foot-long wheeled hot dog as the vehicle made an overnight stop in Las Vegas.
As Fox 5 Las Vegas reports, the thieves made off with the catalytic converter in front of the Sonesta Suites motel in Sin City. The Wienermobile, one of six such vehicles circulating across the country, had been scheduled to make an appearance at a shopping center in town on Friday, but was forced to make a pit stop at a local Penske trucks shop for repairs.
According to Road & Track the Wienermobile is built on an Isuzu NPR HD chassis, so it makes sense that a truck shop would be able to service it. Unfortunately, vehicles with a lot of ground clearance like SUVs and pickups are often the targets of catalytic converter pirates, as the parts are more easily accessed from beneath.
In 2019, reported thefts of catalytic converters nationwide totaled only 3,389, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The number of reports climbed to 14,433 in 2020. In 2021, that swelled to 65,398, a 353% increase over the previous year. The rate continued apace in 2022, with State Farm alone reporting 44,500 thefts from their customers through June of that year.
The emissions-scrubbing devices contain valuable metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium. The National Insurance Crime Bureau says those metals are valued at $1,128, $2,938 and $20,000 per ounce, respectively, as of March 2022. Last year, California passed new legislation to make it harder to sell stolen catalytic converters, while the Department of Justice busted a ring of catalytic converter thieves with assets totaling $550 million.
Joseph Rodriguez, a Penske maintenance coordinator, told Fox 5 that the repair was only temporary, as they did not have the correct part to install. However, it was enough to send the Wienermobile on its merry way.
Cars such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Accord, and Ford F-150 routinely top lists of cars targeted by catalytic converter thieves. That’s partially due to the fact that those are common cars sold in large number, but the lesson here is that no vehicle is safe. If scofflaws are brazen enough to steal from a bright yellow truck shaped like a frankfurter, nothing is safe.