A lot of these cars being targetted in the US are not equipped with an electronic immobiliser that prevents thieves from bypassing the ignition system.
“Our earlier studies show that vehicle theft losses plunged after immobilizers were introduced. Unfortunately, Hyundai and Kia have lagged behind other automakers in making them standard equipment,” explains Highway Loss Data Institute senior vice president Matt Moore.
There have been viral videos on social media platform TikTok showing teenagers stealing and driving Kia and Hyundai vehicles using a USB cord, according to a CNBC report. This TikTok challenge, which uses the hashtag “Kia Boys,” reportedly has over 33 million views.
In Los Angeles, officials say the viral trend targeting these easy-to-steal vehicles has resulted in an 85% increase in thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles compared with last year.
Among newer models, whole vehicle theft claims were highest for the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, relative to its numbers on the road over 2018-22. But among 2015-19 model-year vehicles, theft claims were nearly twice as common for Hyundai and Kia vehicles as a group as for all other manufacturers, according to a recent HLDI report.
“Car theft spiked during the pandemic,” said HLDI Senior Vice President Matt Moore. “These numbers tell us that some vehicles may be targeted because they’re fast or worth a lot of money and others because they’re easy to steal.”
“Our earlier studies show that vehicle theft losses plunged after immobilizers were introduced,” said Moore. “Unfortunately, Hyundai and Kia have lagged behind other automakers in making them standard equipment.”
Immobilisers were already standard on 62 percent of models from other manufacturers in the model year 2000. But even in the model year 2015, when immobilizers were standard on 96 percent of other manufacturers’ vehicles, they were standard on only 26 percent of Hyundai and Kia vehicle models.
“If it doesn’t have an immobiliser, it does make it somewhat easier to steal,” said Darrell Russell, a former auto theft investigator who is now director of operations, vehicles, at the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
“Hyundai Motor America is concerned about the recent rise in auto thefts of certain Hyundai model vehicles,” the company said in a statement. “While all of our vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, unfortunately, our vehicles have been targeted in a coordinated effort on social media.”