Social media influencers and an insurance industry think tank are giving Hyundai and Kia vehicles the worst kind of publicity: Many of the cars the company sold are easy to steal.
In the past week, newspapers and television news producers around the country have run stories about decisions by Progressive and State Farm to limit the number of car insurance policies they write for owners of Kia and Hyundais from 2015 through 2019. Both brands are owned by Hyundai Motor Group.
Progressive and State Farm spokespeople confirmed in emails Tuesday that they are increasing rates and limiting the sale of new insurance policies for the theft-prone vehicles.
“During the past year we’ve seen theft rates for certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles more than triple, and in some markets these vehicles are almost 20 times more likely to be stolen than other vehicles,” Progressive said. “Given that we price our policies based on the level of risk they represent, this explosive increase in thefts in many cases makes these vehicles extremely challenging for us to insure.”
One might blame the bad press on the Highway Loss Data Institute, which reported last September that some Hyundai and Kia models from 2015 to 2019 are twice as likely to be stolen as other vehicles of similar age because the manufacturer decided to skimp on electronic immobilizers that prevent thieves from breaking in and bypassing the ignition.
But a group of car thieves who post videos on YouTube and TikTok that show easy it is to steal Kias and Hyundais were the first to bring the carmakers unwanted attention. The Kia Boys, who hail from Milwaukee, according to their videos, demonstrate how a screwdriver and a USB cable can be used to start vehicles without using a key.
The Chicago Police Department reported on Monday that 11 Hyundai and Kia vehicles were stolen in the city’s West Side in a 48-hour period. The Police Department said 44 percent of all vehicles stolen so far this year have been either a Hyundai or Kia, according to a report by MyStateline.org.
State Farm had already noticed the increase in thefts.
“State Farm has temporarily stopped accepting new customer applications in some states for certain model years and trim levels of Hyundai and Kia vehicles because theft losses for these vehicles have increased dramatically,” the company said in a prepared statement. “This is a serious problem impacting our customers and the entire auto insurance industry.”
An automobile industry news website, The Drive, reported on Jan. 23 that State Farm and Progressive were refusing to cover certain Hyundai and Kia models. CNN, CBS, ABC and numerous other media outlets followed with their own stories.
The report quoted a Kia spokesman as saying the company “regrets this decision by certain insurers and its impact on owners and lessees of select Kia vehicles, which we anticipate will be temporary.” Kia said it “has been developing and testing enhanced security software for vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer and has started notifying owners of certain models of the availability of this software upgrade at no cost to consumers,” according to MyStateline.
The Highway Loss Data Institute provided the back story in a Sept. 22 report posted on its website. While 96 percent of models from other manufacturers included electronic immobilizers as standard equipment in 2015, only 26 percent of Hyundai and Kia vehicles were similarly equipped, HLDI said.
Interestingly, HLDI said Wisconsin was one of the earliest-affected states. In 2021, overall losses from Hyundai-Kia thefts jumped to more than 30 times 2019 levels.
“Hyundai Motor America is concerned about the recent rise in auto thefts of certain Hyundai model vehicles,” the company said in a statement, according to the HLDI report. “While all of our vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, unfortunately, our vehicles have been targeted in a coordinated effort on social media.”
Kia told HLDI that “criminals are seeking vehicles solely equipped with a steel key and turn-to-start ignition system” and “the majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and push-button-to-start system” that makes them more difficult to steal.
Top photo courtesy of HLDI.