Stealing older model Hyundai and Kia automobiles and SUVs have become a frightening social media trend.
Now, figures from the Highway Loss Data Institute, an organization that gathers information on insurance claims, reveal that specific South Korean models are far more likely to be stolen than others.
In fact, Hyundai and Kia cars from 2015 to 2019 are approximately twice as likely to be stolen than vehicles of comparable age.
According to the HLDI, this is because many of these automobiles lack auto theft prevention technology that was standard on the vast majority of other vehicles, even in those years.
These vehicles are not equipped with electronic immobilizers, which rely on a computer chip in the car and another in the key to validate that the key is genuine and really belongs to the vehicle. Without the correct key, an immobilizer should prevent the vehicle from driving.
According to the HLDI, immobilizers were standard equipment on 96% of cars sold during the 2015-2019 model years, but just 26% of Hyundais and Kias.
Instead of depending on metal keys that must be inserted and twisted, vehicles with push-button start systems feature immobilizers, but not all models with turn-key ignitions do.
Hyundai and Kia operate as independent firms in the United States, although Hyundai Motor Group holds a significant investment in Kia, and many Hyundai and Kia models share engineering components.
According to HLDI, the vehicle theft practice increased rapidly on social media last year.
In Wisconsin, where Hyundais and Kias initially became popular, theft claims soared to more than 30 times 2019 levels in terms of dollars.
Some videos shared on TikTok depicted Hyundai and Kia automobiles that were purportedly stolen being driven erratically and even crashing.
A spokeswoman for TikTok stated recently, "This activity violates our regulations and will be deleted from our platform if discovered."
According to the HLDI, the technique of theft, which entails severe damage to the ignition system, suggests that these automobiles are being taken for pleasure rather than for resale.
"When you violently break the ignition, you do so much damage that it's difficult to re-VIN and resale the car on the open market," National Insurance Crime Bureau head of operations and former auto theft detective Darrell Russell said in a statement.
To re-VIN a car is to modify or replace its Vehicle Identifying Number, a 17-character identification code, to make it more difficult to trace.
HLDI's theft frequency estimations are based on the quantity of a certain model on the road and the frequency of vehicle theft claims.
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Some automobiles are frequently stolen because so many have been sold, therefore there are a large number of them on the road.
In the case of certain Hyundai and Kia models, however, the theft rates are disproportionately high compared to their road presence.
Ira Gabriel, a spokeswoman for Hyundai, stated that vehicles made after November 1, 2021 and those with push-button start are not susceptible to theft in this manner.
After that date, all Hyundai automobiles, even those with keyed ignitions, were equipped with standard electronic immobilizers.
In addition, Hyundai has developed a kit that can be placed on older vehicles without immobilizers to avoid this type of theft.
The security kit will be available for purchase and installation at Hyundai dealerships and authorized installers beginning October 1, according to an automotive statement.
The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with push-button start technologies that make theft more difficult, according to Kia.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau encourages car owners who fear their vehicle may be a target for theft to take simple precautions such as always locking the doors and parking in well-lit locations.
In addition, owners can install theft-deterrent devices such as alarm systems, steering wheel and pedal locks, and kill switches.
According to the HLDI, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a big sedan with a supercharged V8 engine capable of producing more than 700 horsepower, was the most often stolen car among recent models. Stellanits, a multinational automaker, manufactures Dodge automobiles.
"All Stellantis vehicles meet or exceed all applicable federal safety and security standards.
Our whole North American car portfolio is equipped with industry-standard features, such as immobilizer capabilities "a spokeswoman wrote in an email. "Notwithstanding, we recommend all drivers to secure their cars properly."