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It doesn’t matter where you live in the U.S. — there will always be a risk of car theft. But most of these crimes tend to occur in more populated areas. And your chances of being the victim of car theft increase if you own an older-model Kia or Hyundai.

Reports are surfacing about surges in car theft nationwide, particularly of 2011 or newer Kia models and 2015 or newer Hyundai models. So, what makes these vehicles so appealing to car thieves? And more important, what do Kia and Hyundai say? Here’s the response from the automakers and what you can do to protect your car.

A rash of car thefts among Hyundai and Kia models

Hyundai Kia car theft
A man wearing a balaclava holds a wrecking bar to demonstrate car theft | Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The instances of car theft are not isolated to just major metropolitan areas like Chicago or New York. In fact, there has been a slew of news stories about Hyundai and Kia car theft concerns across the Midwest, including in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ohio. Madison, Wisconsin’s Channel 3000 warned local residents that anyone with a 2011 or newer Kia or 2015 or newer Hyundai would be at higher risk of theft.

Milwaukee is also seeing a major problem, primarily with Hyundai and Kia models being stolen. There is a group of troublesome teens who call themselves the “Kia Boys,” contributing to the number of stolen cars there. Car and Driver reported that two of every three vehicles stolen during the first half of last year in Milwaukee were either Kia or Hyundai models. According to the local authorities, the year-to-date total car thefts is 2.5 times higher than in 2020. Almost 10,000 vehicles have been stolen this year already, worrisome when compared to the 4,509 stolen in 2021, according to Fox 9.

Fox 9, out of St. Paul, Minnesota, also reported an uptick in Hyundai and Kia car thefts. The Twin Cities is experiencing similar spikes in theft, with many occurring in broad daylight and right in front of vehicle owners’ residences. Additionally, Forest Park police in the Cincinnati area have issued official warnings to Hyundai and Kia owners. The Enquirer shared that six of these models were reported stolen since June 21, typically from larger apartment complexes.

Hyundai and Kia respond to the surge in car thefts

Hyundai and Kia are well aware of the nationwide increase in car thefts. Officials from both companies are working with local police departments to provide steering wheel locks to vehicle owners. And Kia has responded by making engine immobilizer technology standard on all of its 2022 models. Hyundai also has committed to adopting engine immobilizers with transponders built into the key fobs, preventing the vehicle from starting without the correct key.

For now, Milwaukee police are encouraging Hyundai and Kia owners to take additional steps to protect their cars. Tips include parking in well-lit areas, keeping doors locked at all times, and reporting any suspicious activity. Steering wheel locking devices and any after-market alarm systems are also recommended.

What makes these models so easy to steal?

So, what is it about Hyundai and Kia models that makes them high targets for car thieves? The older models being stolen don’t have the anti-theft devices that newer cars have. The physical ignition cylinders can mechanically be bypassed, allowing criminals to start and drive off with the car.

But even brand-new models are becoming targets because, as one repair facility owner said in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, criminals know they can “break the back window” without setting off an alarm. They can then “peel back the steering column” and start the car using a screwdriver.

Hyundai and Kia car thefts are going viral as thieves realize specific models are easy to grab. If you own one of these models, take the necessary steps to reduce your risks. And if you’re in Milwaukee, talk to your local police department about getting steering wheel locks from the automakers.


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