Theft of older models of Hyundai and Kia cars and SUVs has become a scary social media trend. Now data from the Highway Loss Data Institute, which collects information on insurance claims, confirms that these South Korean models are far more likely to be stolen than others.
In fact, 2015-2019 Hyundai and Kia models are about twice as likely to be stolen than other vehicles of a similar age. The reasons are many These vehicles lack basic anti-theft car technology in most other vehicles, even in those years, according to HLDI.
These models do not have electronic immobilizers, which rely on a computer chip in the car and another in the key communicating to confirm that the key is genuine and genuinely belongs to that vehicle. Without the right key, an immobilizer should do just that – stop the car from moving.
Immobilizers were standard equipment on 96% of vehicles sold for the 2015-2019 model years, according to HLDI, but were standard on only 26% of Hyundais and Kias. Vehicles with push button start systems have immobilizers rather than relying on metal keys that must be inserted and turned, but not all models with key ignitions.
Hyundai and Kia operate as separate companies in the United States, but Hyundai Motor Group owns a large stake in Kia, and various Hyundai and Kia models share much of their engineering.
The auto theft trend has spread widely on social media over the past year, according to HLDI. In Wisconsin, where it first became popular, theft claims from Hyundais and Kias rose to more than 30 times the 2019 dollar level.
Some videos posted on TikTok allegedly showed stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles being recklessly driven and even breaking down. “TikTok does not condone this behavior, which violates our policies and will be removed if found on our platform,” a TikTok spokesperson said recently.
The theft method, which involves severely damaging the ignition system, suggests these cars are being stolen for fun rather than resale, according to HLDI.
“If you force the ignition off, you cause so much damage that it’s not easy to re-VIN and resell the vehicle on the open market,” said Darrell Russell, a former auto theft investigator who is now an operations manager at the is National Insurance Crime Bureau said in a statement. Assigning a new VIN to a vehicle means changing or replacing its Vehicle Identification Number, a 17-letter and numeric identification code, to make the vehicle more difficult to locate.
HLDI’s estimates of theft frequency are based on the number of a given model on the road and the frequency of vehicle theft claims. Some vehicles get stolen very often simply because so many have been sold and so there are just a lot of them on the streets to steal.
However, with these Hyundai and Kia models, theft rates are disproportionate to their numbers on the road.
Vehicles produced after November 1, 2021 and those with push-button start are not vulnerable to theft this way, Hyundai spokesman Ira Gabriel said. Electronic immobilizers became standard on all Hyundai vehicles, including those with key ignition, after that date.
Also for those with older vehicles that don’t have immobilizers, Hyundai has identified a kit that can be installed to prevent this type of theft. Beginning Oct. 1, the security kit will be available for purchase and installation from Hyundai dealers and authorized installers, the automaker said in a statement.
Kia pointed out that the majority of Kia vehicles in the United States have push button start systems that make them more difficult to steal. The NICB advises owners who are concerned their vehicle may be a target for theft to take simple steps such as B. Always lock doors and park in well-lit areas. In addition, owners can also use aftermarket anti-theft devices such as additional alarm systems, steering wheel and pedal locks, and emergency stop switches.
Of the newer vehicles, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a large sedan with a supercharged V8 engine capable of producing more than 700 horsepower, was the most popular with thieves relative to the number on the road, according to HLDI. Dodge vehicles are manufactured by global auto company Stellanits.
“All Stellantis vehicles meet or exceed applicable federal standards for safety and security. We’re using industry-standard technologies, including immobilizers, across our North American lineup of vehicles,” a spokesman said in an email. “Nevertheless, we urge all motorists to exercise due diligence in securing their vehicles.”
CNN’s Brian Fung contributed to this story.