Max Dorfman, investigative writer for Triple-I

Value-priced Kia and Hyundai vehicles are being stolen at the same rate as muscle cars and SUVs, Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) informed, based on an analysis of 2021 insurance claims. The spike in particular is due to the fact that the models being stolen do not have electronic immobilizers that prevent thieves from bypassing the ignition.

“Vehicle theft has increased during the pandemic,” said Matt Moore, senior vice president of HLDI. “These numbers tell us that some vehicles may be targeted because they are fast or worth a lot of money, and others because they are easy to steal.”

Ignition immobilizers are standard equipment on almost all cars of this vintage made by other companies. For the 2000 model year, they were standard on 62 percent of other manufacturers’ models. By the 2015 model year, immobilizers were standard on 96 percent of other vehicles, but only on 26 percent of Hyundai and Kia models.

“If it doesn’t have an immobilizer, it really makes it easier to steal,” said Darrell Russell, a former auto theft investigator who is now director of vehicle operations at the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

In Wisconsin, which was hit by these thefts earlier than others, losses from Hyundai-Kia thefts increased more than 30 times from 2019 levels.

Car theft continues to be a serious problem

In 2020, Art The FBI found it that $7.4 billion was lost to auto theft, with an average dollar loss per theft of $9,166. A total of 810,400 cars were stolen this year. The number of stolen cars increased by 11.8 percent in 2020 from 724,872 in 2019. The NICB says the pandemic, the economic downturn, the loss of juvenile programs, and limited public safety budgets and resources were key factors in the increase in stolen vehicles in 2020.

Important preventive measures

NICB recommends a multi-layered approach to prevent vehicle theft, which includes:

  • Always lock the doors and remove the keys from the ignition;
  • Use of visible or audible devices such as alarms and steering column brake locks;
  • Installation of a car immobilizer, for example, a switch or a smart key; and
  • Invest in a tracking system.

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