Politicians Blame Car Manufacturers For Theft-Enabling Flaws

A group of politicians across the U.S. are blaming car manufacturers Kia and Hyundai for a surge in car thefts across the country. The Councilmembers Against Car Thefts coalition says the car manufacturers failed to install industry-standard anti-theft devices in their vehicles, leading to a rising wave of car thieves targeting those brands and their owners.

Car thefts have been on the rise nationwide, with almost a half-million vehicles stolen in just the first half of 2023. Full-size pickups are the most likely vehicle to be stolen in the U.S., but the last few years have seen an alarming trend in thieves targeting Hyundai and Kia vehicles, causing several of those models to be among the most stolen annually. Theft insurance claims have skyrocketed more than 1000% for vulnerable models in the last four years, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute.

Although the two car companies are technically separate brands, the Hyundai Motor Company owns a controlling interest in Kia. The manufacturers often share similar parts between their vehicles, and in this instance, similar design flaws with their vehicles’ anti-theft devices.

The particularly vulnerable vehicles were produced between 2015 and 2019. These vehicles have a turn-key ignition instead of a push button start and lack electronic protections against theft that were standard for other vehicles produced in those same years. This makes it easy to hotwire the car and steal it with minimal tools or equipment.

Social media has played a major role in increasing these thefts, with people showing how to use the exploit or simply showing off their stolen vehicles. These videos often target or showcase minors, oftentimes young teenagers trying to show off their stolen cars. Officials are concerned that this will lead to more vehicle accidents and deaths, with untrained drivers behind the wheels of stolen vehicles.

In addition, the same vehicles have seen a large increase in vandalism, likely caused by thieves lashing out after a failed attempt to steal the car. This problem has become so prevalent that State Farm and Progressive, two of America’s largest vehicle insurance companies, are now refusing to cover certain models of Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

The car manufacturers have already begun providing technology and upgrades to affected vehicle owners. They have also agreed to a $200 million settlement for owners who have had their cars stolen or vandalized.

However, many politicians feel that these steps are not enough. Multiple cities are suing the manufacturers over the rise in thefts and the design flaws that helped spark them. But whether that will be enough to help curb the enthusiasm of these car thieves and reduce theft rates remains to be seen.

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