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I-Team: AAA, Hyundai partner to insure high-theft vehicles, at what cost?

As insurance companies scale back or drop coverage for Hyundai and Kia owners, AAA is stepping up to fill in the gap.

ST. LOUIS — As big-name insurance companies are leaving Hyundai and Kia owners like LaToya Jones without coverage – one company is still willing to take them on. The I-Team has learned the cost is significant and there’s a catch.

AAA and Hyundai announced a partnership this month to keep drivers ensured as well as take on new clients even though the vehicles have been at the center of skyrocketing auto thefts.

For about two years now, thieves have been sharing how easy it is to steal some Hyundais and Kias on social media because they lack anti-theft technology.

That’s lead to soaring premiums – or flat-out denials.

Jones said her insurance company required her to pay her premium in full instead of giving her payment options after her Kia was stolen. A friend of hers -- a fellow Kia owner -- learned her insurance company would not renew her coverage.

“A lot of insurance companies are saying that they don't want to insure Kias anymore because of the theft of them,” Jones told the I-Team during an interview in March discussing a lawsuit she’s filed against the automaker.

Not AAA.

“AAA was founded more than 120 years ago as a motorist advocacy group, a traffic safety group,” said spokesman Nick Chabarria. “And it's our continued commitment to those drivers to make sure that they can be on the road as affordable as possible and make sure that they have the coverage needed.”

The I-Team wanted to know how AAA can keep its existing Hyundai drivers as well as take on new ones given how high the theft and damage rates are on the vehicles.

So, we took the question to the insurance and appraisal experts at Houston Auto Appraisers, who say the answer is simple: Charge higher rates.

“I think that it's good as far as they will have some type of security when it comes to having insurance that is a decent, really good insurance, but again, watch out for those high rates and shop around,” said Shiree Martinez, an appraisal and title representative at Houston Auto Appraisers.

One of Martinez’s coworkers drives a Hyundai Elantra. She saw her insurance plan jump from to $380 from $186 a month. When she applied for coverage through AAA, the online quote soared to $525.

AAA is also requiring its existing Hyundai customers and any new policy seekers to install the free software upgrade the automaker rolled out across authorized dealerships earlier this year.

“We know it can be challenging if rates go up because of what's been going on with the thefts, and we also know it can be extremely challenging if coverage is dropped, so we just wanted to make sure we are continuing our commitment to motorists that this company was founded on and make sure we're continuing to insure these vehicles,” Chabarria said.

In a statement, a Hyundai spokesman also said the automaker is two months ahead of its schedule to make the upgrade available on all four million models affected by the lack of anti-theft technology.

There are also some makes and models that cannot accommodate the technology upgrade.

For those consumers, Hyundai is offering to reimburse drivers for steering wheel locks. Hyundai is also preparing to offer reimbursement to that subset of consumers to offset the purchase of different anti-theft devices, such as an alarm kit.

All Hyundais produced after November 2021 are also equipped with the anti-theft technology known as engine immobilizers, which require a computer chip inside of a key to start an engine.

The technology is not a requirement in the United States – so Hyundais and Kias made in countries that do require it haven’t seen the same explosion of thefts.

To learn more about how to schedule an appointment to get the free technology installed or learn about reimbursement for steering wheel locks or other anti-theft devices, Hyundai is asking consumers to visit www.HyundaiAntiTheft.com for more information.

For an online quote from AAA, visit AAA.com/insurance.

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