Owners of certain Hyundai and Kia models are advised to take special precautions to secure their vehicles, as thefts are occurring in cities across the country.
St. Petersburg, Florida, is the latest city to alert citizens to the problem, reporting that nearly half of the cars stolen in recent weeks are from sister brands.
“It’s pretty alarming, our numbers are up significantly and it’s gotten our attention,” St. Petersburg Detective Cody Lance said at a press conference this week.
The problem first came to national attention last year in Milwaukee, where 5,700 brands of cars were stolen through November. According to Fox 6.
Additional cities followed, including Columbus, Ohio, where Kias and Hyundais accounted for 38% of all thefts so far this year.
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Videos shared on social media mainly show that Hyundais with ignition systems in 2011-2021 Kias and 2015-2021 models with physical keys can be easily hacked using a screwdriver, pliers or the end of a USB cable, as the vehicles lack immobilizers. Requires key fob with transponder to work.
Fox News Autos does not describe a technique that removes the steering column cover and further damages the vehicle.
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“Hyundai Motor America is concerned about the increase in local auto thefts. The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will remain our top priority,” the automaker told Fox News Autos.
“These vehicles meet or exceed federal motor vehicle safety standards, and engine immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles.”
Hyundai’s announcement was echoed by Kia.
Kia and Hyundai offered steering wheel locks to some owners in Milwaukee last year, but did not offer a built-in permanent fix, and multiple class-action lawsuits have been filed against them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that all car owners, regardless of brand, take simple precautions to protect their vehicles from theft.
These include parking in well-lit areas when the garage is not available, closing and locking all windows and doors, removing valuables or leaving them out of sight outside the vehicle, and taking the key or key fob when leaving the vehicle.
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Consumer Reports adds that a steering wheel lock acts as a deterrent, and low-cost aftermarket alarms and tracking systems can help prevent theft or total loss of the vehicle.