Car theft on the rise nationwide, certain brands at higher risk

Car thefts on the rise nationwide, certain cars at higher risk
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 10:24 PM EST
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - Car theft declined for two years before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Kelly Blue Book. Now, research shows it is back on the rise.

Nearly 250,000 vehicle thefts were reported from January to March 2022, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. They say car theft drastically increased compared to 2021 when about 930,000 Americans reported stolen vehicles for that year.

“They’ve figured out an easy way to steal the Kia’s and a couple others that are very easy to get into and start. They pretty ingeniously come up with some computer programs. There’s also some ways that they’re going to dealerships, test driving a car, and while they’re in it they’re finding a way to program a key fob,” Ashley Paulk, sheriff of Lowndes County, said.

Sheriff Paulk says if anyone is caught stealing cars in Lowndes County they will face felony...
Sheriff Paulk says if anyone is caught stealing cars in Lowndes County they will face felony charges.(Source: WALB)

Research shows that some base model 2010-2021 Hyundais and Kias lack electronic mobilizers, which is standard equipment that prevents the cars from being stolen.

A Kia spokesperson confirmed to Kelly Blue that that claim is only accurate for base models. Most Hyundai and Kia models from that period contain immobilizers, but not the least expensive versions.

One woman who recently had her Kia stolen but found by police the next day tells says it was a nightmare. One minute her car was in her driveway, the next, it wasn’t.

“It made me feel violated. I feel like I’m having post-traumatic stress from it just because I know there’s nothing to prevent it from happening again. It’s an unsettling feeling,” Stacey Lynette, a victim of car theft, said.

Vehicle theft totals are approaching record-breaking highs, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. In the first three quarters of 2022, over 745,000 vehicles were reported stolen according to the NICB.

“These cars are expensive. They’re still high-end cars. You know when you say Kia, some people say ‘well that’s a cheap car.’ No. Kia makes a pretty high-line car. Please lock your car and try and put it in a well-lighted area. If you’ve got a closed garage, pull it in your closed garage.”

When looking at an incident (crime) report received from the Albany Police Department, multiple Kia’s had been tampered with. One was confirmed that it had been stolen.

“They should do a recall. I know that it’s something that’s going to be expensive to repair, but at the same time, so is everything else. I ended up paying $2,500 out of pocket just to get my car fixed. They should put in an engine immobilizer on the vehicles so that this isn’t something that’s continuously happening to people,” Lynette said.

Kia and Hyundai have addressed part of the problem by making their 2022-2023 models with immobilizers. Some say that’s a good thing, but what about the models before that? The question has yet to be answered.