New York takes notice: Soaring car thefts zero in on Hyundai and Kia vehicles

April 28, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a consumer alert on Thursday that warned New Yorkers about a recent surge in thefts targeting Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

The alarming trend has been fueled by a dangerous TikTok challenge, the AG claims, where people upload videos showing how to hotwire these cars and daring others to steal them.

In response, James urged the car manufacturers to immediately address safety flaws, such as faulty ignition switches and a lack of engine immobilizers, which have made vehicles manufactured between 2011 and 2022 vulnerable to thefts. Additionally, James called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall these unsafe vehicles.

“Manufacturers have a responsibility to address safety flaws in their vehicles,” said Attorney General James. “I am calling on Hyundai and Kia to immediately install anti-theft devices and other safety measures to better protect New York car owners and lessees. I urge all New Yorkers, especially those with impacted Hyundai and Kia vehicles, to remain vigilant and follow our important tips to help keep themselves safe.”

Exploiting vulnerabilities in Hyundai and Kia vehicles, thieves have been hotwiring the cars within minutes using simple tools like a USB cable and screwdriver. This has led to a spike in thefts across New York, creating significant public safety hazards and property loss. For instance, in New York City, the NYPD reported more than 100 Hyundai and Kia car thefts in December 2022 alone.

These troubling statistics have prompted the City to join ongoing national legal action against car manufacturers Kia and Hyundai. Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city intends to sue the companies over the near quadruple-digit percentage point increases in thefts of their vehicles, which the city claims are tied to a missing anti-theft measure in certain models.

Last year, NYC experienced more than 13,000 car thefts, a 32 percent increase compared to 2021, the highest rate increase since 2006, according to the NYPD. Nationally, vehicle thefts have reached a high not seen since 2008, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s analysis. Experts say, factors like lucrative car parts, insurance fraud, and joyriding contribute to the increase.

This alarming trend has not only caused millions of dollars in lost and damaged property but also posed a direct risk to public safety. At least four deaths and numerous injuries have resulted from car accidents following the theft of these vehicles in New York. Hyundai and Kia are in the process of implementing a software patch that will repair their vehicles’ vulnerabilities, but the patch is being rolled out in phases and will not be available for all vehicle models.

As the city pursues legal action against the automakers, it is crucial for New Yorkers to stay informed and take necessary precautions to protect themselves and their property. The situation underscores the need for greater accountability from manufacturers and the importance of addressing safety flaws before they lead to widespread issues.

Historically, car thefts are still way down since the high-crime days of the 1980s and 90s. For instance, a neighborhood like Bay Ridge, which consistently struggled with auto thefts back then, saw 3,142 grand larceny auto charges in 1990, and 1,946 in 1993. Last year, the neighborhood saw just 109 grand larceny auto reports. On the other side of the borough, Williamsburg saw 1,169 grand larceny auto reports in 1990, but just 184 in 2022.

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