Oscar Mayer’s iconic Wienermobile couldn’t cut the mustard over the weekend after it fell victim to a crime that left its engine unable to start.
The nostalgia-heavy vehicle—a 27-foot-long hot dog on wheels—was in Las Vegas over the weekend for a series of Super Bowl–related events.
However, on Friday morning, crew members were doubtful they would make it to a 10 a.m. appearance after discovering the Wienermobile’s catalytic converter had been stolen overnight, Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS TV reported.
According to the news station, the wiener-shaped vehicle was towed to Penske Truck Rental, where mechanics installed a temporary converter that allowed its famous “Hotdoggers” to drive it to its 10 a.m. event.
Spokespeople for Oscar Mayer and its parent company Kraft Heinz were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Fortune.
Joseph Rodriguez, Penske’s parts administrator, told KLAS TV he was a little shocked when he turned up to work and found the Wienermobile sitting in the shop.
“A hot dog truck, no way,” he said. “Imagine a huge hot dog in the middle of your bay. There’s all these other trucks and you got to work on this.”
Rodriguez added that the local area had “a huge problem” with catalytic converters being stolen, noting that last summer, victims of the crime were often left waiting for around three months for replacement parts to be delivered. The Wienermobile, he told KLAS TV, would have to wait for a month or two for its permanent catalytic converter.
“It’s been going on for a couple of years now,” he said, referring to the rising number of similar crimes.
Catalytic converter theft on the rise
It isn’t only Las Vegas and other big cities that are seeing a wave of catalytic converter thefts.
Catalytic converters are important vehicle components that control harmful emissions. They have become attractive to thieves in recent years as the value of the metals they are made of—like rhodium, palladium and platinum—has skyrocketed, making their theft one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. Metal recyclers typically pay between $50 and $250 for the devices, which can be removed from a vehicle in a matter of minutes using basic tools.
Between 2019 and 2022, catalytic converter theft across the U.S. rose by 1,215%, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
In California alone, around 1,600 catalytic converters were stolen every month in 2021.
Even police vehicles have fallen victim to the increasingly common crime. Last year, thieves took off with catalytic converters from several marked cruisers belonging to the San Francisco Police Department. Meanwhile, a sheriff’s deputy in the Houston area was shot dead in March as he tried to stop suspects stealing his car’s catalytic converter.
Last November, the U.S. Justice Department announced it had taken down a nationwide catalytic converter theft ring, with 21 people across five states being arrested or charged for their roles in the conspiracy. FBI Director Christopher Wray said at the time that the group had made hundreds of millions of dollars through the scheme.
To help prevent your vehicle falling victim to the crime, the NICB recommends parking in a garage or with a camera where possible, installing a catalytic converter anti-theft device, or etching your Vehicle Identification Number into your car’s catalytic converter.
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