Kia, Hyundai Vehicle Thefts Increased Over 10-Fold Since 2020: Report

Kia and Hyundai thefts were more than seven times higher during the first six months of 2023, compared to similar vehicles from other manufacturers.

Thefts involving Kia and Hyundai vehicles have risen dramatically over the past three years, following a viral social media trend that challenged individuals to steal the vehicles, by exploiting security weaknesses.

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), a nonprofit research organization, has released a report that analyzed insurance loss data associated with most major motor vehicle models, indicating that Kia and Hyundai thefts have increased 10-fold since 2020.

Like most other vehicle makes, only one in every 1,000 insured Hyundai and Kia vehicles were reported stolen in the first six months of 2020. However, Hyundai and Kia thefts soared to 11.2 out of every 1,000 insured vehicles in the first six months of 2020, while thefts involving all other vehicle makes and models remained the same.

According to a CNN report published on January 5, the dramatic increase appears to be attributed to a popular trend that went viral on TikTok and other social media platforms in early 2020, which challenged users to steal certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles that lack anti-theft technology.

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Kia and Hyundai Vehicles Vulnerable to Theft

The “Kia Challenge” came after a user shared an instructional video showing others how to easily bypass the security system, unlock the steering wheel column, and start the vehicle by inserting a simple USB cable into the ignition. The user challenged others to do the same, resulting in nationwide vandalism and theft of Kia and Hyundai vehicles.

The majority of vehicles from other manufacturers are equipped with immobilizers, which are electronic anti-theft devices that use unique key fob chips to unlock the vehicle, and prevent the engine from being started with another key, or by bypassing the vehicle’s ignition switch.

In 2015, 96% of vehicles from other manufacturers offered anti-theft technology as a standard feature, including electronic immobilizers, but only 26% of Kia and Hyundai vehicles offered it, according to the HLDI. Certain Kia vehicles between model year 2011 through 2021, and certain Hyundai vehicles between model year 2015 and 2021, lack theft prevention software or equipment, leaving millions of vehicles vulnerable to vandalism and theft.

CNN reports that the security issue became so prevalent that some auto insurance companies refused to insure the affected vehicles, or cover damages related to vandalism or theft. This prompted a Kia and Hyundai theft lawsuit last year, which was filed on behalf of nearly 9 million vehicle owners, and resulted in a $200 million settlement to reimburse owners for their damaged or stolen vehicles.

In response, both Kia and Hyundai offered affected vehicle owners with anti-theft software installations, upgrades, and steering wheel locks to prevent further thefts. Hyundai has also set up temporary service centers throughout a number of major U.S. cities to offer free anti-theft software installation.

While Kia and Hyundai are separate automakers, they share the same parent company, and much of the same engineering.


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