One of the crazier automotive stories to come out of 2022 related to certain Hyundai and Kia models that are staggeringly easy to steal using a few tricks first outlined on TikTok. Dealers, the aftermarket, and others have devised fixes for the problem, which involves the vehicles’ use of a physical key and the lack of an immobilizer. Even so, insurance companies in some states have had enough and are refusing to issue new policies for several models from both automakers.
WWLTV in New Orleans recently reported on the situation, noting that two State Farm employees told it that the company’s ban on new Hyundai or Kia policies extends through a few states, including Georgia, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Washington. The insurance blacklist includes more than a dozen models from between 2015 and 2021:
- Hyundai Accent
- Hyundai Elantra
- Hyundai Kona
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Hyundai Tucson
- Hyundai Veloster
- Kia Forte
- Kia Optima
- Kia Rio
- Kia Sedona
- Kia Sorento
- Kia Soul
- Kia Sportage
State Farm confirmed the action in a statement to WWLTV, saying it “has temporarily stopped accepting new customer applications 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 industry.” The news hasn’t made it to the Louisiana Department of Insurance, which told the station that it had not been notified of any changes to insurance policies in the state.
Hyundai and Kia vehicles have been stolen twice as often as other models, with a theft claim rate of 2.18 per 1,000 vehicles compared to 1.21 for the rest of the industry. The news station reported that by 2015 when these models began being built, a whopping 96 percent of new cars came with immobilizer technology, which generally relies on a chip in the key communicating with another chip in the ignition to verify a match. By comparison, just 26 percent of new Hyundais and Kias came with the tech. Both companies started including immobilizers as standard equipment by the end of 2021.
Protect against would-be thieves
If you own one of the listed models, you likely aren’t in huge danger of losing your insurance policy if you already have one. Though State Farm may refuse a new policy in certain states, it said the decision would not affect existing policyholders. At the same time, it’s a good idea to protect yourself from theft, which is a huge hassle. Both automakers plan to roll out a software update in mid-2023 to help deter thieves, but some of the best deterrents are the most old-school.
Remember The Club? It turns out the low-tech steering wheel lock does a great job of stopping someone from driving off in your car. Others have come up with retrofitted immobilizers and similar devices, but this is one situation where the cheapest and most straightforward solution is the best.