Kia, Hyundai Cars Are Too Easily Stolen, Say Insurers and Lawyers

  • Kia and Hyundai are the defendants in a new lawsuit with the City of Seattle, which has filed suit in federal court against the companies for failing to install adequate anti-theft technology in some of their cars.
  • Cities across the US have seen a sharp increase in the number of stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles over the past two years, helped in part by a popular TikTok trend.
  • As a result of the increasing thefts, some major insurance providers such as Progressive or State Farm are reportedly refusing to cover affected vehicles in select cities.

Kia and Hyundai are still feeling the effects of the TikTok trend popularized by the so-called “Kia Boyz”, which has sparked a steady rise in thefts of vehicles manufactured by either brand. Vehicles from those manufacturers are specifically targeted because many of their older vehicles lack a critical anti-theft device known as an engine immobilizer, and thieves know they can break rear windows without activating an alarm system.

Thefts have become so commonplace that there are reports that some major insurance providers are refusing to open new policies on affected Kias and Hyundais, while some drivers with existing coverage are paying higher and higher premiums. One resident of a suburb of St. Louis began shopping for a new insurance provider when the six-month Geico premium for his 2020 Hyundai Elantra went up about $200 when he renewed the policy in December—from about $600 to $800—according to the St Louis Post Shipping. The same resident of St. Louis was denied coverage by Progressive and quoted up to $350 per month by another provider.

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Denying coverage or raising the price is becoming the common solution for many insurance agencies. Progressive generates an automatic denial message when Hyundai and Kia owners apply for an online quote in St. Louis and other areas disproportionately affected, according to a Progressive spokesman who spoke with the St Louis Post Shipping. The same report notes that, instead of blanket denials, Nationwide and Geico chose to raise driver premiums on those makes and models.

You may recall from when we covered the issue in the fall that both manufacturers began processes to limit thefts. Kia and Hyundai both supply local law enforcement agencies with steering wheel locks, and Hyundai has begun selling Firstech/Compustar security kits, which add immobilizers to vehicles without them. Both companies have also made immobilizers standard, with Hyundai making the switch for all vehicles produced from November 2021 and Kia making the switch for all 2022 model vehicles.

But theft rates have continued to rise, with owners hoping for a more aggressively helpful response from the manufacturers, and a few municipalities taking the companies to court over the issue. Last August, city leaders from St. Louis threatened to sue the brands after the number of Kia and Hyundai theft incidents spiked to about 23 a day in August, according to Post-shipment. Seattle took things a step further and filed suit in federal court against Kia and Hyundai for not installing sufficient anti-theft technology in some of their cars.

“From last July to this July, we saw a 625 percent increase in Kias and Hyundais stolen in the city of Seattle,” Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison said, as reported by Fox 13 Seattle. Davison said the thefts had become a public nuisance and accused both companies of knowingly cutting corners.

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Ultimately, Davison said she hopes for a widespread recall from every company, which will force the manufacturers to fund the fix and (hopefully) deter thieves from continuing to target the vehicles. We reached out to both Hyundai and Kia for comment on the increased pressure from both customers and insurance companies, as well as the new lawsuit. Their answers follow.

Hyundai believes this lawsuit is improper and unnecessary. In response to increasing thefts Targeting our vehicles without push-button ignitions and immobilizing anti-theft devices in the United States, Hyundai Motor America has made engine immobilizers standard on all vehicles manufactured beginning in November 2021. Additionally, Hyundai has taken a series of actions to deter theft from those affected. vehicles, including an upcoming software update scheduled to be available starting next month and provided to customers at no cost.

“Hyundai is also providing free steering wheel locks, as available, to select law enforcement agencies across the country, including in the Seattle area, for distribution to local residents who own or lease affected models. Owners can also bring their vehicles to a local Hyundai dealer for the purchase and installation of a custom security kit. We apologize for the inconvenience to affected customers.”

Kia gave a similar response, though the company noted that its policy is not to comment on pending litigation.

“Kia remains concerned that criminal actors are targeting certain Kia vehicles with a steel key and ‘turn-to-start’ ignition systems. Kia continues to make steering wheel locks available to customers through interested local law enforcement agencies, subject to available stock, at no cost for concerned owners of these vehicles.

“Kia is also continuing its efforts to develop additional solutions for vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer, including the development and testing of enhanced security software designed to limit the operation of the vehicle’s ignition system. Kia has owners of certain models are beginning to be notified of the availability of this software upgrade at no cost, and Kia anticipates that it will make software upgrades available to most affected vehicles over the next few months.