Social media drives Hyundai, Kia thefts in U.S. as explainer videos go viral

Click to play video: 'Car thefts at Toronto Pearson Airport up'
Car thefts at Toronto Pearson Airport up
WATCH: Car thefts at Toronto Pearson Airport up – Nov 8, 2023

A social media trend has ignited thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles in the U.S., Global News was told Friday.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, theft insurance claim frequency for 2003 to 2023 Hyundai and Kia models was up more than 10 times higher in the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2020.

“Theft claim frequencies for 2003-23 Hyundai and Kia vehicles were about on par with that of other makes in 2020 but have risen to 11.2 claims per 1,000 insured vehicles years for the most recent period, compared with 1.6 claims for other makes,” IIHS spokesperson Joe Young said in an email to Global News.

He also noted that the theft claim frequency for Hyundai and Kia vehicles between January to June 2023 was nearly seven times higher than that for other makes. All of the IIHS’ data pertains to the U.S. and not Canada.

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Matt Moore, the senior vice-president of the Highway Loss Data Institute, which is part of IIHS, told Global News that some social media personalities had discovered that some Hyundai and Kia models were not equipped with an immobilizer, which is an electronic anti-theft device that makes it difficult for thieves to start a vehicle without the key or FOB.

“They figured out how to steal these vehicles and they made information of how to steal the vehicles available on social media, in particular TikTok, and challenged others to do so,” he said.

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Ontario provides $492K to tackle auto thefts in Peterborough and Kawarthas

He said that “ground zero” of this problem in the U.S. was Wisconsin and Colorado, but it has since spread to many other states.

“It’s a viral problem,” he said. “The problem continues to pop up in states where it had not previously been a problem.”

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Moore said the issue has also spread to different model years, even to ones with an immobilizer, and that vandalism claims are also being filed related to the cars, meaning some of the “beginner” thieves aren’t good at identifying which models are vulnerable, and so try to break into the car but can’t steal it.

He said they began to see an uptick in Hyundai and Kia thefts in the second half of 2020.

Minneapolis’ police chief, Brian O’Hara, has said the thefts are a “public safety crisis,” the Associated Press reported in May 2023.

“Juveniles are joyriding in these stolen models, and when they are caught by police,” he said, “they’re rarely held accountable for their behavior” by the courts and youth corrections systems.

That can lead to more serious crimes, he said, “until they get very seriously injured or killed themselves.”

The method of theft includes breaking the rear window to get into the car and then accessing the ignition keyhole. Such a method is in contrast to the rising number of car thefts in Canada, which are often done to resell the vehicle and with little damage to the car by utilizing key FOB technology.

Global News has reached out to TikTok for comment on efforts to reduce the sharing of such videos.


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