Toyota is working with police and Smartwater to covertly mark the catalytic converters on more than 100,000 cars in an attempt to deter thieves.
The initiative is costing the car maker more than £1m and will be provided to existing Toyota owners for free.
Rob Giles, Toyota (GB) director of Customer Services, said: “Catalytic converter theft is a very serious problem in the UK and the effects on victims of this crime are emotional as well as financial.
“We’re pleased to be starting this initiative, working closely with the police, not only to help them with their efforts to combat this crime but also to send a clear message to criminals that if they choose to target a Toyota or Lexus car there is now a far higher chance of getting caught.”
Toyota hopes that the marking programme will dissuade rogue scrap metal dealers who are happy to pay cash for stolen converters, now that the risk of being caught is greater than before.
Thieves are targeting the catalytic converters in older hybrid models, like the Toyota Prius, because the catalyst in a hybrid has a lower work load than in a non-electrified vehicle, meaning it is in better condition.
In more modern Toyota and Lexus cars the catalysts are of a different design and are not typically targets for theft as a result.
According to Ageas Insurance, three-in-10 of all theft claims reported are now related to catalytic converters. Before the Coronavirus lockdown, catalytic converter theft only accounted for around one-in-five.
Catalytic converters contain a honeycomb coated with precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium which help to filter harmful gases from the vehicles’ exhaust systems.
The RAC says that when the global value of these metals increase it usually leads to a spike in thefts. Prices of rhodium hit a record highs earlier this year, up more than 200% since March 2020.
Toyota is offering the Smartwater marking free to all Toyota and Lexus owners, who simply need to call their local Toyota or Lexus retailer to arrange a visit.
It has also issued 20,000 Smartwater kits to police to support their local anti-catalyst theft initiatives. The company is also working with the AA, Toyota’s road-side partner, so its patrols can point customers to where they can get a free kit.