Ignition design makes Hyundai, Kia easy to steal with USB cord

Automakers have known about the defect and theft trend for at least a year.

Street. Lewis – Donald Nelson left his home in Shrewsbury around 5 a.m. in June, only to find himself the latest victim of a nationwide trend. Car thieves are exploiting a weakness in the ignition systems of some popular car brands.

It allows criminals to steal thousands of Kias and Hyundais – just like Nelson – using a USB cord.

“When I came out, I thought I was in the twilight zone,” Nelson recalls. I thought, ‘Maybe I parked my car in a different place? “

A quick look at the surveillance footage at his home answered his question.

His cameras caught the last few seconds of his 2020 Hyundai Elantra driving away without Nelson behind the wheel.

“Immediately I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do? How will I go to work? Where do I go next? What will happen with my insurance? “

He knew he was not alone.

Police across the country say newer Kias models from 2015 and newer Hyundais from 2012 are at risk.

In St. Louis, thefts of these types of cars are up nearly 400% compared to this time last year, according to St. Louis Police Captain Janice Bookstruck.

He excluded Hyundais and Kias from the city’s equation, and Bockstruck said total car thefts in the city would decrease rather than rise by 6%.

“That in itself speaks volumes about how much other makes and models of cars in our city are declining, but Kias and Hyundais are on the rise,” she said.

Kia Boys

In some areas, including Milwaukee, Wisconsin, car thieves have named their favorite brand a gang after their favorite brand, Kia Boys. Members posted countless videos on social media showing themselves stealing cars and speeding through residential areas.

The Milwaukee City Council has considered suing the automakers, saying poor ignition systems are to blame for the city’s high crime rate. A class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Hyundai and Kia owners in federal court there as well.

In St. Louis, Bookstruck said many of the thieves are young men. She doesn’t think they go by the Kia Boyz name or organize social media get-togethers to showcase their stolen merchandise together.

However, the younger the car thief, she said, the more serious the matter.

“They have less driving experience and may have more courage, so they drive sporadically and recklessly around town,” Boxstruck said. “No matter where you live, no matter what community you live in, if you have a Hyundai or a Kia, they are vulnerable.”

Hyundai and Kia have known about the problem since last year, but Nelson said Hyundai never alerted him about the issue.

“It would be great if they could go out and replace the entire ignition system,” Nelson said.

Police say there is an easier solution, and the problem has forced the companies to change ignition systems on newer models.

Engine Mounts

The problem, Boxtrack said, is that many cars don’t have immobilizer technology, which requires the engine to read a computer chip inside a key to start it.

As thefts explode, Kia and Hyundai have pledged to make the technology standard on all new models.

Kia and Hyundai didn’t answer any of the first team’s questions, and sent the data.

Kia wrote: “Kia America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts from some high-profile vehicles in the St. Louis area. As of this year 2022, all Kia vehicles are equipped with an immobilizer system as standard. All Kia vehicles for sale in the United States meet or exceed federal vehicle safety standards.”

Hyundai Motor America is concerned about the rise in domestic vehicle thefts. The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will continue to be our top priority. These vehicles meet or exceed Federal Vehicle Safety Standards, and engine mounts are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles.

“It will help with car thefts in the future, but it doesn’t help with cars that the consumer is currently using,” Bookstruck said.

Not even the chief of police is immune to crime.

The 2018 Kia Optima, retired St. Louis president John Hayden, was stolen outside his Central West End home earlier this month.

RELATED: Car stolen from former St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief

Police arrested a 15-year-old boy after they chased after him and used a taser to subdue him. A police source said an officer was wounded in the leg as he pursued him.

Boxstroke said car owners like its former boss and Nelson should invest in an anti-theft device called The Club — which can lock the steering wheel — or park their cars indoors.

“The (club) image alone will make the person move to the next car and not try to steal your car,” she said. “We haven’t seen any of them with a stolen car club attached.”

Bookstruck said St. Louis police are also trying to work with Kia and Hyundai dealerships to inform consumers of the problem and distribution clubs, but “this has not come to fruition at this time.”

Local auto parts store clerks tell 5 On Your Side that they’re dropping into the clubs, as Hyundai and Kia owners scramble to find them.

Find stolen cars

Shrewsbury Police told Nelson that his stolen car was found about a month after it went missing.

It ended up at Terry’s Towing in Maplewood, where even the daughter of the two-piece owner, Grace Romines, was a victim.

Her 2015 Kia Optima was stolen from the parking lot of her apartment two months ago. I used a tracking app and found it lying in Rock Hill. I pulled her to her father’s place. On the same day, another stolen Kia entered her father’s land with a Terry Cup that she kept in her car.

On the day Nelson came to the parking lot looking for his car, Rummins said there were at least 20 other people stolen from Kias and Hyundai.

“They are all the same,” she said. “The ignition is off. The car went through, and it all caught up. Every single one of them.”

One of them, the 2019 Kia Sorento, has the USB cord still hanging from the ignition.

It was owned by Tommy Schwett of University City.

“I called the police and quickly discovered after calling that this was a problem across the area,” he said. “The police officer even showed me a video of how criminals learned how to do it.”

The thieves had taken his son’s car seat, but the police found the car within hours of it being stolen. There were marijuana buds on his dash, exterior damage and a flat tire, but Schwett said he hoped his insurance company would fix it. He estimates he will be without a car for months in the meantime.

Nelson found his work ID, parking card, umbrella, and letter written by his girlfriend still inside his stolen car – even after losing it for a month.

He also found some things that didn’t belong to him, including marijuana buds, condom wrappers, candy, and junk food.

“You just don’t really think this is going to happen to you,” he said. “I mean, especially in my neighborhood. There is a police station down the street, a police officer lives across the street.”

He said he feels for the other victims who don’t have a second car to use as he did when his car was missing or had good insurance.

Nelson said his insurance company collected his car and gave him a check.

The money will be used to buy a new car, and it will not be Hyundai or Kia.

Where to buy steering wheel lock

Clubs are available for $15 at the Five Star Senior Center at 2832 Arsenal St, the St. Louis Citizens Service office, or at the Revenue Department. Residents should call City Hall in advance to check availability, bring proof of accommodation in the city and pay in cash.

For more information about the clubs, call 314-622-4800 or visit the city’s website.

is st. Louis residents can find hardware online or at most auto parts stores.

Do you have concerns about your vehicle?

The Kia Consumer Affairs Hotline is 1-800-333-4542.

Hyundai customers can contact the Hyundai Consumer Help Center at 800-633-5151.


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