UPDATE: A Kia spokesperson commented on this story:
Kia America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of a subset of trim levels. All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year or as a running change. All Kia vehicles for sale in the U.S. meet or exceed Federal motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (Kia).
A wave of thefts is affecting Hyundai and Kia models because crooks only need to break in and use a USB cable to drive the vehicle away. Making the situation worse, there are videos on social media demonstrating how to pull off this crime.
The affected vehicles allegedly don't have engine immobilizers, according to Automotive News. This makes it possible to plug the cord into a certain spot and start the powerplant without needing the key or fob.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Kia vehicles starting with the 2011 model year and Hyundai models starting with the 2015 model year were affected. Last year, police in the city even started handing out steering wheel locks to owners of these products to prevent the thefts.
A group of people going by the name "Kia Boys" on social media is reportedly posting videos of stealing the affected Hyundai and Kia models. They then show themselves joyriding in these vehicles.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, appears to be a major hotspot for this problem. In 2021, thefts of Hyundai and Kia vehicles were up 2,644 percent from the previous year, according to Milwaukee's TMJ4 News. As of September 2021, the police indicated that 20 of the affected models were stolen each day.
The problem isn't only in this city, though, because other places around the country are seeing increased reports of these models being stolen.
Currently, new Hyundai and Kia vehicles have engine immobilizers meaning that this problem doesn't affect them.
"Hyundai Motor America is concerned with the rise in local auto thefts. The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will remain our top priority. These vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and engine immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles. Hyundai customers who have questions can always contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151," a company spokesperson told Motor1.com.
Motor1.com also reached out to Kia for comment about this situation. We haven't yet heard back from the automaker as of the story's publication. We will update the report upon receiving a response.