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Police, Local Garages Report Spike In Prius Catalytic Converter Thefts

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Police departments and auto repair shops across the Bay Area are experiencing a spike in catalytic converter thefts for Toyota Priuses that's created a backlog for pricey replacement parts.

"We got in the car Sunday morning to go to Walnut Creek and we heard this horrible grinding sound," said San Francisco resident Sarah Weil, whose Prius was targeted over the weekend.

Weil said her mechanic was able to quickly diagnose the problem over the phone. Fixing it, however, would not be nearly as fast.

"He told us to drive in and they'd take care of it. But then we got there, the parts on back order because this is so common. We're not getting our car back for four days now," explained Weil.

And the repairs don't come cheap. Installing a brand-new catalytic converter on the hybrid Prius can cost between $2,500 and $3,000 for parts and service.

California tried to put the brakes on catalytic converter thefts a decade ago, making it illegal to sell used ones to auto repair shops or recyclers.

"The precious metals inside make them worth money," said Greg Jones, a mechanic at Luscious Garage in San Francisco. "You can't buy them for less than about $1,5000 from the dealership. So, if you need one, they're expensive."

KPIX 5 News contacted Toyota for comment. A spokesperson for the auto manufacturer said they were just learning about the spike in thefts and were not aware of any shortage of replacement parts.


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