Some Hyundai and Kia automobiles and SUVs are lacking a “key” anti-theft gadget, and thieves know.

An insurance coverage business group says these automobiles are stolen at almost twice the speed of the remainder of the auto business as a result of their keys lack pc chips for theft “immobilizer” methods.

The thefts apparently began within the Milwaukee space two years in the past and unfold to a number of Midwest cities and as far-off as Colorado and New Mexico after educational movies appeared on social media.

The Highway Loss Data Institute, a unit of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, discovered that Hyundais and Kias with out immobilizers had a automobile theft declare fee of two.18 per 1,000 insured automobile years. The remainder of the business mixed had a fee of 1.21. An insured automobile yr is the same as one automobile insured for one yr.

The institute, which issued its findings on Thursday, in contrast autos from the 2015 by means of 2019 mannequin years. It studied automobile theft claims from 2021.

Chip keys, which began to point out up within the Nineteen Nineties, talk with one other chip within the ignition swap. If they match, the engines will begin. If they don’t match, a thief can’t begin the engine.

Keys don’t have an immobilizer system in a number of lower-priced variations of autos from the 2 South Korean automakers such because the Kia Rio and Sportage and the Hyundai Accent, the institute stated.

“Our earlier studies show that vehicle theft losses plunged after immobilizers were introduced,” stated Matt Moore, senior vice chairman of the institute. “Unfortunately, Hyundai and Kia have lagged behind other automakers in making them standard equipment.”

In the 2015 mannequin yr, immobilizers have been normal on 96% of different producers’ fashions, the institute stated. But they have been normal on solely 26% of Hyundai and Kia fashions. The carmakers haven’t defined their determination to not embrace immobilizers on some fashions.

Videos present thieves prying the ignition cowl off the Hyundai and Kia autos, then utilizing a screwdriver or USB cable to begin them and drive away.

Last yr in Milwaukee, 66% of the ten,476 stolen autos have been Hyundais or Kias, based on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper. The variety of thefts has slowed within the metropolis thus far this yr. Through Sept. 12, 6,048 autos have been taken, however 58% of them have been Hyundais or Kias, Milwaukee police stated Thursday.

One 17-year-old theft suspect in a viral video about Kia thefts was arrested after police used the video and an nameless tip to trace him down, the Journal Sentinel reported. He may resist 22 years in jail.

Hyundai and Kia each conceded in statements that thieves are stealing a few of their autos and stated they meet federal security requirements. “It is unfortunate that criminals are using social media to target vehicles without engine immobilizers in a coordinated effort,” Kia stated.

All 2022 Kias received immobilizers both firstly of or throughout the mannequin yr. Hyundai stated all fashions produced after Nov. 1, 2021 have immobilizers as normal tools.

Kia says it’s working to offer steering wheel locks without charge to authorities in affected areas to discourage thefts. Hyundai stated it’s additionally offering the locks to police, and that in October, it can begin promoting a safety equipment that targets the thieves’ strategies.

The institute’s Moore stated the susceptible Hyundais and Kias rank among the many 20 hottest autos with thieves, a distinction usually reserved for high-powered or costly autos, or pickup vehicles. The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat had the best fee of theft claims.

Many of the susceptible Hyundais and Kias are sometimes purchased by lower-income folks. “These are relatively inexpensive vehicles when purchased new,” Moore stated. Owners of among the fashions might have dropped complete insurance coverage to save cash, and should have needed to change the automobiles on their very own, he stated.

To assist stop theft, homeowners ought to roll up home windows, lock doorways and take the important thing or fob with them, the National Insurance Crime Bureau says. They ought to park in well-lighted areas or a storage. If they need to park outdoor, homeowners ought to take into account putting in motion-sensor lights.

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