(CNN) — Thefts of certain Hyundai and Kia models have risen 10-fold over the past three years, an extremely sharp rise following a series of social media posts showing how to steal such vehicles.
Theft insurance claims for Hyundai and Kia rose more than 1,000% between the first half of 2020 and the first half of 2023, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute, an industry group that tracks insurance statistics.
In the first half of 2020, approximately 1.6 out of every 1,000 insured Hyundai and Kias vehicles were stolen. This was about the same as for all other car brands combined. However, in the first half of 2023, this rate increased to 11.2 per 1,000 people. Meanwhile, the level of thefts of cars of all other brands remained approximately at the same level.
In the first half of 2023, Hyundai and Kia theft claims were also more than seven times higher than other manufacturers, according to HLDI.
Some older Hyundai and Kia models manufactured between 2015 and 2019 are particularly vulnerable to thieves. Less expensive versions of cars such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Tucson, as well as the Kia Forte and Sportage, equipped with a turn-key ignition system (as opposed to cars that only require the push of a button to start), are about twice as likely to be stolen. than other cars of the same age.
According to HLDI, many of these vehicles lack some basic anti-theft technology, such as electronic immobilizers, that were included in most other vehicles even from that era. Electronic immobilizers rely on a computer chip in the car and another in the key to provide confirmation that the key is genuine and actually belongs to that car.
Hyundai and Kia operate as separate companies in the United States, but Hyundai Motor Group owns a large stake in Kia, and some Hyundai and Kia models share common designs. Newer models are less vulnerable to theft.
In some states, such as New York, Washington and Delaware, reports of thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles increased sharply in the first half of last year, according to HLDI. In Maryland, for example, theft claims rose from four per 1,000 insured vehicles in the second half of 2022 to 14 in the first half of 2023.
The theft method, which involves using the metal end of a USB cable to start a car, has gone viral on social media, especially TikTok.
Vandalism reports against affected Hyundais and Kias have risen sharply, peaking at three times that of other vehicles on the market in the first half of 2023, according to HLDI. The increase was likely the result of failed robbery attempts, he added.
The rapid increase in thefts is believed to be due to increased awareness of the vulnerability and how it can be exploited, said Matt Moore, senior vice president at HLDI. While the theft trend initially spread on social media, traditional media reports about the trend have also brought awareness to how vulnerable these vehicles are. But media coverage can also let people know there are ways to protect their cars.
“I think it’s important at this point to help people who own these vehicles understand that they have a vulnerability and that there is a remedy available,” he said.
Earlier this year, Hyundai and Kia reached a $200 million settlement with nearly 9 million vehicle owners to resolve claims that the automakers didn’t do enough to ensure vehicle safety. In addition to payments for stolen and damaged vehicles, compensation also includes the installation of anti-theft software and the cost of other anti-theft measures.
The problem has become so widespread that some auto insurers in some markets have simply refused to cover these older Hyundai and Kia models, which is not common practice.
Both automakers noted the steps they have taken to provide customers with anti-theft equipment and technology. They also worked with local police to distribute steering locks to owners of these models.
“Kia continues to take important steps to support our customers in response to criminals using theft techniques advertised and popularized on social media to steal or attempt to steal certain vehicle models,” Kia spokesman James Bell said as part of a lengthy statement, detailing describing the measures the company took. He urged customers to install a software update released by the company earlier this year.
Hyundai said it has also set up temporary service centers in several major cities to install anti-theft software in vehicles.