Hyundai and Kia models topped US auto theft rankings last year

Two Hyundai models and one Kia model were the three most-stolen vehicles last year, a report finds.

Two Hyundai models and one Kia model were the three most-stolen vehicles last year, a report finds. (David Zalubowski, Associated Press)

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WASHINGTON — Two Hyundai models and one Kia were the three most-stolen vehicles last year, according to a report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Hyundai Elantra compact cars were stolen more than 48,000 times last year while Hyundai Sonata sedans were stolen almost 43,000 times, according to the report. Kia Optima sedans were stolen more than 30,000 times according to the report, which only counted police-reported thefts.

These theft numbers far outstripped those of the fourth most stolen model, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup, one of the best-selling vehicles in America. Silverado pickups were stolen about 24,000 times, according to the report.

In all, six of the top 10 most-stolen vehicles in America last year were Hyundai and Kia models. The list included the Kia Soul, Kia Forte, and Kia Sportage. Other vehicles on the list were the Honda Accord, Honda Civic and the Ford F-150 pickup.

The bureau reports raw numbers of police-reported thefts that are gathered through the National Crime Information Center. The numbers are not adjusted for the population of a given model on the road so, to a certain extent, some vehicles may be more commonly stolen simply because there are more of them available to steal.

Why Hyundai and Kia cars are top targets

By the first half of 2023, thefts of older Hyundai and Kia models had increased by 1,000% since 2020, according to a report by the Highway Loss Data Institute early this year.

Certain older Hyundai and Kia models made before 2023 are particularly vulnerable to car thieves. Less expensive versions of vehicles such as those cars equipped with turn-key ignitions — as opposed to cars that only require a button press to start – are roughly twice as likely to be stolen as other vehicles of a similar age, according to the data institute.

These vehicles can lack some of the basic auto theft prevention technologies, such as electronic immobilizers, included in most other vehicles even in those years, according to the institute. Electronic immobilizers rely on a computer chip in the car and another in the key that communicates that the key is authentic and belongs to that vehicle.

Techniques to steal these cars spread through social media channels. As theft claims for Hyundai and Kia vehicles have increased since 2020, vandalism insurance claims on them have also gone up, according to institute data. That's presumably a result of these models being targeted for theft but left damaged when some attempts fail, according to the data institute.

Hyundai and Kia operate as separate companies in the United States, but Hyundai Motor Group owns a large stake in Kia, and various Hyundai and Kia models share much of their engineering. More recent models from these automakers are less vulnerable to theft.

Earlier this year, Hyundai and Kia agreed to a $200 million settlement with as many as 9 million vehicle owners to settle claims that the automakers didn't do enough to make the vehicles secure. Along with payments for stolen and damaged vehicles, the settlement also included the installation of anti-theft software and the costs of other theft-preventative measures.

"In response to this situation, Kia continues to take comprehensive action to enhance the security of our vehicles in an effort to prevent criminals from using methods of theft popularized on social media to break the law and steal or attempt to steal certain vehicle models," Kia spokesman James Bell said in an emailed statement.

More than 1.1 million Kia vehicles nationwide have had anti-theft software installed, according to Kia. The company is also providing free steering wheel locks for vehicles that are not able to accept the anti-theft software. Hyundai said it has retroactively added various anti-theft measures on 1.3 million of its vehicles.

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Peter Valdes-Dapena


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