By: Foday Manneh
Car owners in the Gambia face the worst side of a new profit bubble driven by expensive automobile parts amid an overflow of vehicles putting more cars on the country’s roads.
A regular catalytic converter and noise reduction catalyst fetch big money in a booming spare parts retail market.
Mechanics and retailers of vehicle spare parts in Banjul say car parts, particularly components such as silencers, spurn a lucrative trend increasingly attracting thievery.
A vehicle’s catalytic converter is essentially used to filter out harmful exhaust gases and improve efficiency.
Catalytic converters have become a target for theft in many parts of the world, including the Gambia, due to the price of valuable metals alleged to be platinum and palladium minerals.
“It is mostly removed when you take your vehicle for repair at the mechanic or welder men,” a mechanic in Serekunda, Bailo Jallow, told TAT.
“They will cut the cover and remove the metals inside, then replace it with a new welded cover. So you will think it is still there, and if you don’t know about it, that’s it.”
Bailo alleged that in the Gambia, it is mainly sold to spare parts sellers, adding that a kilo of the metals could cost about D10,000 each.
Research done by TAT shows the platinum metal of catalytic converters costs about $1135 (D70,540) per ounce, while palladium goes for $2332 (D144,933) per ounce.
TAT discovered that in the Gambia, vehicles like Jeep, Ford, Toyota, and Trucks are the primary targets, as 1 kilogram of those types costs around D50,000 each. In contrast, medium size vehicles like Mercedes Taxis cost around D15,000 to D20,000 per kilogram.
Sources say it is easy to steal since they remove the exhaust cover; it’s just a tiny component that fetches big money, saving thieves the trouble of stealing the entire vehicle.
“If it is not there when you start the car, it would make a bad noise, affect the acceleration, and consume a lot of fuel. If it is an electronic car, it will give an alert on the dashboard. It is the key to the engine. The engine will not last long without the converter. It also helps to reduce the pressure,” a vehicle spare parts retailer said.
Alieu Secka, a victim of catalytic converter theft whose silencer was unscrupulously removed, says the financial expenditure to restore it is an enormous burden.
“I never knew about this, and it was removed without my notice. Then, one particular day, a friend told me about it because my vehicle had changed totally, and when we checked, we found that it had been removed. I cannot tell where it happened, but later, I spent a lot of money to replace it,” Secka said.