Minneapolis police say they’re seeing a record-breaking number of car thefts from some older Kia and Hyundai models, up 893% from 2021, and blame video challenges on social media as the cause.
According to the MPD, a 14-year-old boy suffered life-threatening injuries after crashing a stolen Kia last weekend.
“It’s outrageous, it’s absolutely insane what’s going on here,” MPD chief Brian O’Hara said. “Kids learn what they can do very quickly, and the problem is that it leads to some very serious tragedies.”
The theft problem has gotten so bad that insurance companies are now considering continuing to write policies for the vulnerable Kia and Hyundai models, an industry expert tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
“I’ve never seen big insurance companies start not covering Kia and Hyundai because they get stolen so often,” said Mark Kulda, vice president of public affairs at the Insurance Association of Minnesota.
The non-profit trade association represents more than 40 large and small insurance companies operating in the country.
“It gets expensive to insure these because the risk of theft is so high,” Kulda said.
Law enforcement officials said social media challenges uncovered a defect in vehicles with turnkey ignition.
Auto industry experts said some older vehicle models produced between 2011-21 lack anti-theft devices known as immobilizers, and thieves have taken advantage of this.
A car thief has vandalized Brian Halbach’s Hyundai Elantra.
“They threw the stuff in my console and everything out — they just threw out the window,” Halbach said.
Halbach, the relative of a KSTP employee, said the Elantra was stolen a second time outside his Minneapolis home.
“They didn’t get that far then,” he said. “I left the gas almost on ‘E’ – I didn’t have time to refill. It was to my advantage,” said Halbach.
Kulda said some insurance companies are trying to cut the comprehensive coverage that lenders require for car owners who are still paying off their loans.
“If you own your car, you don’t have to have comprehensive coverage, but if you have credit, you must have comprehensive coverage, and insurers are starting to say they won’t be selling new comprehensive policies with this model year, like Kia and Hyundai.” ‘ said Kulda.
“You may need to look around and find an insurer that does. Not all companies do this – many of the big ones do – which means it will be difficult for people to make a lot of calls to find out which companies are offering this coverage,” added Kulda.
5 EYWITNESS NEWS reached out to some major insurance providers to see if there would be any potential changes for consumers driving the vehicles in question. So far, only Progressive has issued a response.
“We are committed to providing consumers with affordable insurance solutions based on the level of risk they pose while ensuring our policies are accurately priced. Due to the risk of theft of some Hyundai and Kia vehicles, these vehicles can often be difficult to insure, so we have adjusted our new business acceptance criteria for some of these models. We will continue to monitor how this issue evolves and hope to reconsider our decision as the risk of theft decreases and community awareness improves.”
– Progressive speaker
Responses from car manufacturers
Hyundai’s US offices emailed the following response regarding the increase in thefts:
“We remain concerned about the increase in thefts of certain Hyundai vehicles, which a coordinated social media campaign is targeting. Hyundai is currently providing steering wheel locks to law enforcement in affected areas based on availability. In addition, Hyundai will offer two more options for owners of these earlier model year vehicles who are targeted by thieves.
“Hyundai has released a glass break sensor security kit that targets the entry method used by thieves to break into these vehicles. These kits can be purchased and installed from Hyundai dealers and Compustar authorized installers across the country. The MSRP for the kit is $170 and the estimated cost of installation may vary by location.
“Hyundai is also developing a software update to further secure these target vehicles. We anticipate that this software update will be available for certain vehicles in the first half of 2023, followed by updates for other vehicles.
“Please note that all Hyundai vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Some early models without push button ignition do not have immobilizers. In November 2021, immobilizers became standard on all Hyundai vehicles produced.
“Customers who have questions can contact the Hyundai Customer Care Center at 800-633-5151.”
– Hyundai Motor America
A representative from Kia America also responded, sharing the following statement:
“Kia is saddened to learn that this week a Minneapolis youth was found injured in an accidental vehicle that was reported stolen. We remain concerned about the recent trend among youth in some sectors, encouraged by social media, to target certain Kia vehicles with a steel key and turn-to-start ignition systems. Such criminal behavior endangers our local communities and violates property rights.
“While no car can be made completely theft-proof, Kia continues to make steering wheel locks available to affected owners of these vehicles through interested local law enforcement agencies where available.
“Kia also continues its efforts to develop additional solutions for vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer, including the development and testing of enhanced security software. Kia will shortly be making an announcement regarding the availability of software upgrades for owners of affected vehicles.
“All 2022 models and trim levels will have an immobilizer fitted either at the beginning of the year or as an ongoing change and all Kia vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
“Kia customers with questions about their Kia vehicle should contact the Kia Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (Kia).”
– Kia America