MPI, supply chain compound one family’s misery SUV twice targeted by catalytic-converter thieves off the road from mid-December until April

Ian Surdhar had enough of a headache to deal with after one or more thieves made off with his vehicle’s catalytic converter in December, leaving his young family without wheels for weeks in the dead of winter.

Read this article for free:


Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe:

Monthly Digital Subscription

$4.75 per week*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles

*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/04/2022 (349 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ian Surdhar had enough of a headache to deal with after one or more thieves made off with his vehicle’s catalytic converter in December, leaving his young family without wheels for weeks in the dead of winter.

They had to wait for MPI to assess the damage and then for replacement parts to arrive.

Then it happened again.

Just days after the 36-year-old Winnipeg father got his repaired SUV back in early February, the valuable exhaust-system component frequently targeted by thieves was cut from the vehicle’s undercarriage outside his St. Boniface home a second time and, again, the family was left without transportation.

“We’ve got a three-year-old, which means for (nearly) four months in the middle of winter, not having a vehicle is problematic,” Surdhar said.

And he’s not the only frustrated victim. The city has seen an astronomical increase in catalytic converter theft incidents over the past six years, according to the latest available Winnipeg Police Service statistics — from 14 total in 2015 to 1,620 in 2021, not including December.

The components, which reduce emissions and noise, contain precious metals, including rhodium, palladium and platinum. The $1,500-$2,000 devices can be sold to unscrupulous scrap-metal dealers for hundreds of dollars.

The police data includes break-and-enters, thefts from vehicles and mischief that caused damage indicating thieves intended to steal the part. In 2014, there were three break-and-enters, 11 thefts from a vehicle and no mischief incidents. In 2021, there 28 break-and-enters, 128 mischief incidents and 1,464 thefts.

WPS spokeswoman Const. Dani McKinnon said part of the problem is that there are no regulations currently in place regarding sales to scrap dealers.

Surdhar, who does not want to go through the process again, has since taken matters into his own hands and wallet, installing a CatClamp — an aftermarket cage made of difficult-to-cut aircraft-grade wire rope locked over the converter — and parking his 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe in such a way that it is near-impossible for thieves to slide underneath.

He pointed his frustrated finger at MPI.

A spokeswoman at the public insurer said the repair industry is experiencing supply-chain issues affecting the availability of vehicle parts, leading to lengthy delays in the process.

“Apparently this has been such an issue that MPI is incredibly backed up,” Surdhar told the Free Press.

“It took about a week or so to tow it to the MPI compound, then it took about two weeks for MPI to do the assessment on it and then it took about another week to send the car back to the mechanic to take care of it, and then it took about… two weeks to get any parts for it.”

The second time, he got a mechanic to tow the vehicle directly — MPI has only one towing-company contract — but the repairs still took ages. The one-car family got the vehicle back a few days ago.

“Overall, since Dec. 13, we were without a vehicle for about three-and-a-half months,” he said.

That left him walking to his nearby workplace, while he and his wife had to take their child to daycare on foot. And they spent a significant amount in rental-car fees while the Hyundai sat in the shop. Surdhar said when he added up the cost of renting a vehicle every weekend, it would have been cheaper to pay to have the part replaced himself.

The family moved to Manitoba from Alberta about six years ago, where there’s private vehicle insurance.

“When we moved here, we looked through all the different MPI options for insurance and we decided not to go with loss-of-use insurance (which covers the cost of vehicle rentals for about a month) because we figured that’s going to cost us however much… and if we have to rent a car for a few days or a week, then so be it,” he said.

“We didn’t really appreciate the fact that the system was going to be so inefficient, that MPI was going to be so inefficient that we’d be without a vehicle for months… in Alberta, things happen quickly.”

The MPI spokeswoman noted the winter months can result in heavier demand on the towing company the corporation uses but apologized for any inconvenience that may cause. She also and confirmed estimated times for tows are currently about two days for non-driveable vehicles.

“We have seen towing times return closer to typical service-level expectations and we are continuing to monitor the situation, but supply-chain issues are, unfortunately, beyond the control of MPI processes,” she said in an email.

Surdhar would like to see MPI improve things by increasing the number of approved repair shops and expediting the reporting process, as well as building in additional service capacity.

“You get the surge of catalytic converter thefts, or a bad snowfall, and the entire system collapses and there’s just no give in it,” he said.

Surdhar would also like MPI to better inform its customers of the risk of catalytic converter thefts, including commonly targeted vehicles, and of available aftermarket deterrent options.

Twitter: @erik_pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.

Report Error Submit a Tip