Kia and Hyundai Vehicles are More Vulnerable to Thefts

by Safety Connection

June 14, 2022

Do you own a Kia or Hyundai? Thefts of these vehicles have increased significantly across the country over the last 2 years—including in Madison—because they have a vulnerability. Thieves can break or pry out a rear window (which won’t set off the vehicle’s alarm) and then take apart the steering column and use a screwdriver, or pliers or even a USB cable to start them.

In fact the City of Milwaukee is part of a class action lawsuit against both automakers for design defects that make their vehicles too easy to steal. In 2021 two-thirds of the 10,476 vehicles stolen in Milwaukee were a Kia or Hyundai, and Milwaukee PD gave out thousands of steering wheel locks last year to help owners protect their vehicles.

Last week The Beloit Police Department put out a warning to residents that both models of vehicles were being taken from apartment complexes around their city. Juveniles learn how to exploit the design flaws of these vehicles by watching YouTube videos, and other cities like Columbus OH and St. Louis MO have also seen a significant uptick in Hyundai and Kia thefts—often committed by kids as young as 12.

Engine immobilizers are now standard in all new Kia and Hyundai vehicles beginning with the 2022 models , but if you have an older model, you may want to consider purchasing a steering wheel lock or club.

Also worth noting is that MPD’s City-Wide Notable Calls log is listing more locked vehicles being stolen. Just yesterday (6/14) in the early morning hours, officers were dispatched to the North District for “subjects casing the area” and they discovered a vehicle with a smashed rear window. Yesterday afternoon a vehicle was stolen from the South District and MPD says “suspects likely smashed out a window to gain entry.” A third vehicle was recovered in the East District last night with a back window smashed in. And two weeks ago a far west side neighbor was the victim of a stolen auto incident and the thieves left behind a screwdriver and a coat hanger.

No matter what kind of vehicle you own you can help prevent auto thefts by calling 911 to report any suspicious behavior you see. Are people checking door handles on your street or in a parking lot?

Establishing a nightly routine to check that you and all family members remembered to lock up your home, vehicle(s) and garage can help to prevent crimes of opportunity which are still the most common types of crimes in Madison. And just like it’s a good idea to inventory the valuables inside your home, consider taking some photos from the front, rear and side of your vehicle so if it ever IS stolen you can share those photos with the police.

**Update 8-2-22: Madison Police issued a press release about Kia and Hyundai thefts plus a steering wheel lock giveaway happening at their National Night Out event on Wed August 3:

Madison police giving away free steering wheel locks to certain Hyundai owners

posted August 2, 2022 – 1:08pm

In an effort to prevent stolen vehicles, the Madison Police Department is handing out free wheel locks to people who own certain Hyundai models.

The locks will be distributed during the department’s annual National Night Out event on Wednesday. The event runs from 5-7 p.m. outside of the Madison Mallards stadium at Warner Park.

The locks will be given to the first 100 people who own Hyundai vehicles manufactured between 2016 and 2021 that do not have an engine immobilizer. All push-button start Hyundai vehicles with a proximity key are equipped with immobilizers. Hyundai vehicles that require a physical, shank-style key do not have immobilizers.

Those requesting a wheel lock will need to show their vehicle registration card or bring their vehicle to the event.

The locks were donated by Hyundai.

There has been an increase in Hyundai and Kia vehicle thefts this summer in Madison and other cities across Wisconsin due to a manufacturing issue. At least 77 vehicles were stolen in June. Of those 21 of them were Kia and 14 of them were Hyundai models. The majority of the stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles either had damaged window or steering columns.

Stolen vehicle cases are a top priority for the Madison Police Department as outlined in our 2022 Summer Strategic Plan.

You can learn more about National Night Out by visiting this link.

Older updates:

**Update 6-15-22** Madison Police issued an Attempt to Locate for a stolen Kia Forte whose presumed method of theft involved “steering column damage.”

**Update 6-17-22**: Madison Police reported that a thief or thieves stole an SUV out of Fitchburg and crashed it into a home on the near west side of Madison. A rear window in the vehicle was smashed.

**Update 6-20-22** On Monday, June 20, four juveniles under the age of 15 were arrested by Madison Police for stealing a 2017 Kia Sportage. The teens were seen driving recklessly on Seven Nations Drive before crashing into an unoccupied van on Foxwood Trail causing serious damage to both vehicles. The SUV rolled in the crash and all 4 teens fled. They were apprehended by Madison Police a short time later. The victim was unaware her vehicle was stolen and she still had the ignition key in her possession. The teens allegedly started the vehicle by manipulating the steering column which, as mentioned above, is the vulnerability in certain models of Kia (newer than 2011) and Hyundai (newer than 2015) vehicles. You can read MPD’s full report on this incident here.

**Update 6-20-22**: Madison Police North District Captain Kelly Donahue put out a strategic plan update today that includes information about the uptick in Hyundai and Kia thefts. The Sun Prairie Police Department also put out an alert on their Facebook page:

From MPD’s Blotter:

“We are seeing a change in trends from stealing cars with keys inside, to certain vehicles being targeted due to a manufacturing issue that makes them easy to steal. These vehicles are being entered, usually by breaking a rear window, and driven away without keys. This is a trend that is well known in other areas of the State and Country and is now becoming common in Madison.

Vehicles targeted are Kia models newer than a 2011 and Hyundias newer than 2015. Both automakers have said that beginning in 2022, changes were made to prevent this type of theft. Some folks have reported success with inexpensive theft deterrent devices, when used correctly. While MPD hasn’t done any testing of these devices, information can be found online.

The thefts are frequently committed by groups of people driving around in a single car and then targeting specific areas and vehicles. The group will exit the car they arrived in (usually stolen) and target these vehicles. Sometimes the original vehicle is left behind and at other times they drive away in multiple cars. MPD is asking that this type of suspicious behavior be reported at the time it is happening, by calling 911.”

From the Sun Prairie Police Department: “The Sun Prairie Police Department has recently received reports of stolen vehicles that appear to be related to incidents occurring across the county and the rest of the state. Please be mindful of the tips below, and report any suspicious activity you observe.”

  • Park vehicle indoors if possible
  • Close and lock all windows and doors
  • Remove garage door opener from vehicle if parked outside
  • Do not leave your keys or other valuables in sight within the vehicle
  • If you see something suspicious, report it to the police

**Update 7-22-22** A homicide occurred on the north side of Madison today that involved a stolen Kia.

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