ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — John Dvorak walked out of his house one morning in July to find the back window of his Kia ripped out of the door and laying on the pavement, but he never heard a thing.
His alarm didn't sound.
Thousands of other Kia and Hyundai owners are finding themselves in the same situation, as thieves continue to target certain makes and models of those cars that don't have security systems connected to the rear windows or immobilizers that require computer chips embedded in keys to start engines.
Now, the automakers are scrambling to find solutions. Both Hyundai and Kia representatives said they are giving steering wheel locks to local police departments to be given to consumers.
Hyundai Motor America pledged to make glass break sensor kits available starting Saturday and sent a list of dealerships and installers that were supposed to have them. The company also said the MSRP cost of the kits is $170.
The I-Team called five dealerships and about a dozen installers from that list across the St. Louis area, and representatives said they don't have kits or know when they will.
Two numbers were disconnected. One installer went out of business.
Hyundai Motor America has not responded to a request for comment regarding why locations do not have the kits or know about them.
Dvorak said consumers shouldn’t have to pay for any fixes.
“That is kind of shady that they're not doing that for free,” he said. “That should just be a free fix.”
Kia said it has sent steering wheel locks to St. Louis City and County police departments.
St. Louis County Police confirmed they received the clubs and are planning a distribution event. St. Louis police referred all questions to the St. Louis City Counselor’s office, which has not responded to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Dvorak is still dealing with the fallout from the attempted theft of his Kia even though it didn't get stolen.
“I wake up early one morning to go to work and I just walk over to my car, get in it, and I realize all my stuff is just sitting out on the seats,” he said. “And then I just happened to notice my back window was not there anymore.
"And I get up and look around, and the window is just ripped out of the door, and I noticed my steering column was completely torn open and that they had tried to steal the vehicle.”
He took it to a dealership to get it fixed.
“They said, ‘Parts are back ordered and it's going to be a while,’” Dvorak said.
That was in July. Dvorak’s car is still sitting on the dealership's lot and recently had its license plates stolen.
St. Louis County police knocked on his door at 2 a.m. Sept. 27 asking him where his car was, saying they believed it had fled from police before realizing the plates were stolen.
So far this year, St. Louis County police said 885 Hyundais and Kias have been reported stolen, but those numbers do not include how many have been vandalized like Dvorak’s.
That’s about an 875% increase compared to the same time frame last year.
Dvorak said police speculated the thieves trying to steal his car likely got interrupted before they could get away with it.
“Multiple people within the apartment complex got hit that night, some people had their car stolen, but just like everywhere else in America that has people that own a car, they're just getting broken into and stolen,” he said. “It's just happening everywhere.”
Both automakers have seen their stock prices take a hit. Multiple class action lawsuits have been filed against them across the country. But the companies also say their vehicles are not defective and consumers opted to buy lower trim levels that did not come with engine immobilizers.
Thieves have figured out they can steal the cars using nothing more than a USB cord if they strip the ignition columns, and they're sharing their methods on social media.
Both automakers said they are working with social media companies to stop the spread of information thieves are sharing on how to steal the cars.
Dvorak said he bought his Kia from his brother, who did not know the car he bought didn’t come with an immobilizer or back windows that weren't connected to an alarm system.
“Everyone would have assumed that every car made has these immobilizer kits, so it's really a kind of a slimy response to try to blame it on people buying cheaper cars,” Dvorak said.
Dvorak got an email Thursday saying the parts to fix his Kia are still on backorder.
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