June 10, 2023

New York
CNN Business

Stealing old model Hyundai and Kia cars and SUVs has become a scary social media trend. Now, data from the Highway Loss Data Institute, which collects data on insurance claims, confirms that these South Korean models are much more likely to be stolen than others.

In fact, 2015-2019 Hyundai and Kia models are nearly twice as likely to be stolen as other vehicles of the same age. There are many reasons for this These vehicles lack some basic auto theft prevention technology included inside According to HLDI, most other vehicles, even in those years.

These models do not have electronic immobilizers that rely on a computer chip in the vehicle and another key that communicates to ensure that the key is authentic and truly belongs to the 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, but only 26% of Hyundais and Kias, according to HLDI. Vehicles that have push-button start systems, rather than relying on metal keys that must be inserted and turned on, have immobilizers, but not all models with turn-key ignition do.

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.

According to HLDI, last year the trend of auto theft on social media became widespread. In Wisconsin, where it first became popular, theft claims for Hyundais and Kias increased more than 30 times in dollar terms in 2019.

Some videos posted on TikTok show stolen Hyundai and Kia cars being driven recklessly and even crashing. “TikTok does not condone behavior that violates our policies and will be removed if found on our platform,” a TikTok spokesperson said recently.

The method of theft, which involved serious damage to the ignition system, indicates that these cars are being stolen for fun rather than resale, according to HLDI.

“When you forcefully break the ignition, you’re causing 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 director of operations. The National Insurance Crime Bureau has given this information in a statement. Re-VINing a vehicle means changing or replacing its vehicle identification number, an identification code made up of 17 letters and numbers, to make the vehicle more difficult to trace.

HLDI’s estimates of theft frequency are based on the number of models offered on the road and the frequency of vehicle theft claims. Some vehicles are often stolen because many have been sold, and so there are plenty of them on the road to steal.

In the case of these Hyundai and Kia models, however, the theft rate is out of proportion to their numbers on the road.

Hyundai spokesman Ira Gabriel said vehicles manufactured after Nov. 1, 2021 and cars with push button start are not liable for theft in this way. Electronic immobilizers became standard on all Hyundai vehicles after that date, including those with keyed ignition.

Also, for older vehicles that don’t have an immobilizer, Hyundai has identified a kit that can be installed to prevent this type of theft. Starting October 1, the safety kit will be available for purchase and installation at Hyundai dealerships and authorized installers, the automaker said in a statement.

Kia notes that most Kia vehicles in the U.S. have push-button start systems that make theft more difficult. The The NICB advises owners who are concerned their vehicle may be the target of theft to take simple steps Like always locking doors and parking in well lit areas. Beyond that, owners can also opt for aftermarket theft prevention devices like add-on alarm systems, steering wheel and pedal locks, and kill switches.

Among the new vehicles, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a large sedan with a supercharged V8 capable of producing more than 700 horsepower, was the most popular with thieves compared to its numbers on the road, according to HLDI. Dodge cars are manufactured by global auto company Stellanits.

“All Stellantis vehicles meet or exceed applicable federal standards for safety and security. We use industry-standard technology with immobilizer capabilities across our North American vehicle lineup,” a spokesperson said in an email. “Nevertheless, we urge all motorists to take due care to secure their vehicles.”

CNN’s Brian Fung contributed to this story.

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