US insurers are shying away from writing policies for car models that are easy to steal—specifically, some older Hyundai and Kia models.
Claims data from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) released last September found that these older South Korean makes are roughly twice as likely to be stolen as other vehicles of similar age. Two major insurance firms have now told CNN that they’re avoiding covering these cars.
On Jan. 28, State Farm and Progressive said that, while cars with existing policies will continue to be protected, they will not write new policies these problem models.
State Farm said to CNN:
“State Farm has temporarily stopped writing new business in some states for certain model years and trim levels of Hyundai and Kia vehicles because theft losses for these vehicles have increased dramatically. This is a serious problem impacting our customers and the entire auto insurance industry.”
Jeff Sibel, a Progressive spokesman, told CNN:
“During the past year we’ve seen theft rates for certain Hyundai and Kia vehicles more than triple and in some markets these vehicles are almost 20 times more likely to be stolen than other vehicles. Given that we price our policies based on the level of risk they represent, this explosive increase in thefts in many cases makes these vehicles extremely challenging for us to insure. In response, in some geographic areas we have increased our rates and limited our sale of new insurance policies on some of these models.”
Why are certain Hyundai and Kia cars easy to steal?
Some Hyundai and Kia models built between 2015 and 2019 “lack electronic immobilizers that prevent thieves from simply breaking in and bypassing the ignition,” the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and HLDI noted. The immobilizer technology prevents a car engine from starting unless the authorized key is used.
The “Kia Boys” TikTok trend
In a move popularized by a group called “Kia Boys” on TikTok in 2021, thieves break the plastic parts surrounding the ignition and use a flash drive or USB cord to hot-wire the car and start it up. Typically, in these TikTok videos, robbers break into these cars and go on joyrides or use it to commit another crime before abandoning it.
The Kia Boys trend started with teens in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but quickly became a nationwide fad.
Hyundai and Kia, sister automobile companies, have been hit by class action lawsuits for the defect exposed by the TikTok challenge.
By the digits: Hyundai and Kia thefts
96%: Share of other manufacturers’ vehicles fitted with immobilizers in 2015
26%: Share of Hyundai and Kia vehicle models fitted with immobilizers in 2015
30x: The amount by which overall losses from Hyundai and Kia thefts—the sum paid on theft claims per insured vehicle year—soared after the Kia Boys TikTok trend exploded on social media
85%: The uptick in car theft of Hyundais and Kias in 2022, compared with the year prior in Los Angeles
33 million: Views of the “Kia Boys” hashtag on TikTok
What are Hyundai and Kia doing to prevent thefts?
Models built in and after 2022 will not be a headache to handle, both companies have said, because they come fitted with immobilizers.
For the older models, there are a few different types of troubleshooting underway:
🔒 Both Kia and Hyundia have started giving out steering wheel locks free-of-cost for car owners who have steel keys and “turn-to-start” ignitions that are prone to theft.
🔑 Hyundai collaborated with a third-party security agency named Compustar to provide a $170 anti-theft security kit, consisting of a kill switch, glass-break sensor, and an alarm, at 820 of its dealerships. Along with installation charges and fees for aftermarket parts and service charges, the kit’s final cost is closer to $500
😕 Reports of child labor and engine recalls weigh on Hyundai ahead of earnings
✈️ A thief stole two airplanes with a signature and a couple of stamps
🤑 Thieves are breaking into cars to steal a metal more valuable than gold