ST. LOUIS — Hyundai will soon be offering a solution to consumers who own cars that are part of a nationwide theft epidemic: Buy a security kit at one of their dealerships or authorized installers.
The I-Team has been covering the explosion in thefts involving some Hyundai and Kia models, which are not equipped with engine immobilizing technology. Thieves have posted numerous videos on social media sites showing how easy some of those models are to steal using USB cords as keys.
Hyundai and Kia owners have filed class action lawsuits against the automakers in at least seven states, including Missouri and Illinois.
“Hyundai has identified a Firstech/Compustar security kit that targets the method of entry thieves are using to access these vehicles,” according to the statement from Hyundai. “Beginning October 1, 2022, this security kit will be available for purchase and installation at Hyundai dealerships and Compustar authorized installers across the country.”
Hyundai representatives said they did not have a cost estimate on how much those kits will cost, but online searches show they range in price from $75 to $150 each.
In St. Louis City alone, more than 1,200 Hyundais and Kias have been stolen so far this year – almost half of them in the month of July.
In statements released to 5 On Your Side Tuesday, Hyundai Motor America and Kia noted all of their vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
“Unfortunately, our vehicles have been targeted in a coordinated effort on social media,” according to the statement from Hyundai. “Criminals are targeting our vehicles without engine immobilizers.”
Police say some Kia models built between 2011-2021 and some Hyundai models built in 2015-2021 without immobilizers are affected.
Hyundai made immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced after November 1, 2021. All 2022 Kias models and trim levels have immobilizers applied “either at the beginning of the model year as a running change,” according to the statement.
“Kia America remains concerned about the increase in auto thefts of a subset of Kia vehicles,” according to the statement from Kia. “It is unfortunate that criminals are using social media to target vehicles without engine immobilizers in a coordinated effort."
Thieves in Milwaukee, Wis. have named a gang after their favorite brand, calling themselves The Kia Boyz. They post videos of themselves stealing the cars on social media.
In St. Louis, police say thieves are using the stolen cars for joyriding or using them to commit other crimes.
Early Tuesday, a stolen Hyundai plowed through the wall of a marijuana dispensary in north St. Louis County. A source familiar with the investigation told the I-Team a USB cord was found outside the driver's side door and the ignition had been stripped open as is common in these thefts.
“While no car can be made theft-proof, criminals are seeking vehicles solely equipped with a steel key and ‘turn-to-start’ ignition system," according to Kia's statement. "The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and ‘push-button-to-start’ system, making them more difficult to steal.”
Both automakers have also vowed to give steering wheel lock devices at no cost to police in affected areas.
Kia has not provided St. Louis police with any steering wheel locks, but late Tuesday, the department received a shipment from Hyundai, according to St. Louis Sgt. Charles Wall.
On Wednesday, St. Louis police announced they will be giving out "a limited amount" of steering wheel locks at 3 p.m. at Crown Mart, 2601 Delmar for free to Hyundai and Kia owners courtesy of Lou Fusz Kia and Hyundai Motor America.
Kia and Hyundai owners must arrive in their vehicles to get a free steering wheel lock or provide proof of ownership/registration, Wall said.
"Whether or not we hold any future events will depend on whether or not we give our limited quantity away today, or we receive any further donations," Wall wrote in a statement to 5 On Your Side. "This issue is important to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and we have been in contact with local dealerships and representatives of KIA and Hyundai for more than a month to make this event possible.
"We will continue our efforts and hope that further donations will allow us to offer additional steering wheel locks at no cost. We appreciate the donations provided by Lou Fusz KIA and Hyunda Motor America, and our continued partnership with the Five Star Senior Center, which made today’s event possible."
Local auto part stores have reported a shortage of the devices, commonly known as The Club, on their shelves.
Have concerns about your vehicle?
Kia’s Consumer Affairs hotline is 1-800-333-4542.
Hyundai customers can call the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151.