Kia and Hyundai Account for 38 Percent of Columbus Car Thefts This Year

Kia and Hyundai vehicles have become a prime target for thieves, and there's a simple reason why.
Springfield Police/Kia

Hyundai and Kia models are a prime target for car thieves in Columbus right now, making up four out of 10 vehicles stolen this year, reports The Columbus Dispatch.

According to police statistics, 4,013 vehicles were reported stolen in Columbus up to July 7 this year. Approximately 38% of these were Kia and Hyundai models. It’s a sharp increase compared to 2021, when the two brands made up just 10% of thefts in the area.

It comes amidst a general increase in car thefts in Columbus over the last year. Attempted and successful thefts are up a third compared to the same time in 2021.

Several Kia and Hyundai models are seen as easy targets for thieves. Some of these cars can be broken into without triggering the alarm, often through the rear window. From there, the cars can be started without a key by breaking open the steering column and turning the ignition mechanism with a screwdriver or other implement. Some even use a USB port to do the job.

Modern cars typically have an immobilizer that communicates with a chip in the key fob. This means if you try to hotwire the car, or turn the ignition without a valid key, the car doesn’t get a signal from that chip and won’t start. However, many Kia and Hyundai models that use key start don’t have an immobilizer at all. Thus, they can be stolen easily with these old-fashioned techniques.

Stealing Kias and Hyundais has even become a meme. Car Bibles reported on a viral rap song about boosting the Korean cars in December. It followed on from a spate of thefts in Milwaukee credited to a group known as the Kia Boys. It’s gotten to the point where the city of Milwaukee is contemplating suing the automakers for the trouble of dealing with so many stolen cars.

For its part, Kia is fitting engine immobilizers to 2022 models, which stop the engine from starting in the absence of a valid key. Hyundai is also following suit. Anecdotally, it appears to be helping, with one poster on Reddit noting the simple technology prevented their vehicle being stolen.

The fact that vehicles were still on sale without immobilizers will come as a surprise to many outside the US. The technology was made compulsory for all vehicles in Australia as early as 2001, and many other jurisdictions around the world have taken similar measures.

It doesn’t take long for news of a vulnerability to spread. When it became obvious Kia and Hyundai were producing cars that were easy to steal, thefts ticked up quickly. It will take some time for the brands to shake the related negative connotations. In the meantime, owners might consider buying a steering lock for added peace of mind.

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