In the first six months of the year alone, thefts at Hyundai have increased by more than 1,700%. Kia flights nearly doubled this increase. They are up almost 3,200%.
A technological problem
Most of the targeted vehicles are 2015 Hyundai or newer and 2011 Kias or newer. These vehicles share two characteristics: they do not have an immobilizer, and entering through the rear window does not appear to trigger an alarm.
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An immobilizer is an electronic safety device that prevents a car from starting unless the correct transponder – built into the smart key – is present. Most modern cars have them. But Hyundai and Kia, both owned in part by South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Company, haven’t added them to their entire fleet until recently.
Both companies have confirmed that all of their 2022 models use immobilizers.
But their old cars don’t. So, the owner of a local repair shop told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “Thieves know they can smash the rear window without setting off an alarm, unlock the door, quickly take off the steering column and use a screwdriver or USB stick. port to launch the car and leave.
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Milwaukee ABC affiliate WISN reports that “the city is seriously considering suing two automakers whose vehicles are the source of most thefts” under public nuisance laws. “We looked at a number of potential causes of action. We haven’t joined any prosecutions at this point, ”said Deputy City Attorney Yolanda McGowan.
Hyundai and Kia are working on a solution
The companies are now working with the police on the problem, saying Car and driver in a statement that they “work closely with the Milwaukee Police Department and other local officials and departments.” They will distribute steering wheel locks free of charge to owners of Hyundai and Kia vehicles without immobilizers.