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Two Brands Dominate List of Most Stolen Cars. Police Have Free Fix for Car Owners.
gvw_edward_smith
By Edward Smith
Published 3 weeks ago on
June 3, 2024

Hyundai and Kia models made up six of the 10 most popular cars stolen in 2023, according to data. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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A social media challenge exploiting a weakness in Hyundais and Kias catapulted the sedans to become the most stolen autos of 2023 — and the trend isn’t going away.

In 2023, Hyundai and Kia car models took four of the top five spots for the most stolen cars, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. That broke the years-long tradition of full-sized pickups topping the list.

Thieves stole 48,445 Hyundai Elantras, 42,813 Hyundai Sonatas, and 30,204 Kia Optimas last year.

The Chevy Silverado, 2021’s most stolen automobile, came in at No. 4 with 23,721 thefts.

Kia and Hyundai have since taken measures to address their vulnerability to thieves, including working with local law enforcement to provide resources to protect cars.

“As a result of our actions, which include providing free software security upgrades, distributing steering wheel locks to customers at no cost, and offering complimentary hardware modifications to the vehicle’s ignition cylinder body, we have seen reports of decreases in vehicle thefts in several cities,” said James Bell, head of corporate communications with Kia, in a statement to GV Wire.

Hyundai and Kia model cars occupied six spots on the list of the top 10 most-stolen cars in 2023. (National Insurance Crime Bureau)

Kias/Hyundais Make Up Half of Stolen Cars in Fresno

From 2010 to 2020, no Hyundai or Kia models ranked among the most stolen cars, according to NICB data.

But the social media challenge exploiting weaknesses spurred thieves — especially young people — to steal the cars to go joyriding. TikTok videos show thieves referring to themselves as “Kia Boys.”

Kia held an event over the weekend at Fashion Fair Mall to provide owners with countermeasures to prevent theft. About 300 people came to the event, Bell said.

In Fresno, the 444 stolen Hyundais and 404 stolen Kias made up 52% of all stolen cars from Jan. 1 to May 26, according to the Fresno Police Department.

Following Hyundai and Kia, Chevrolet, Honda, and GMC vehicles make up the next most stolen vehicles, in that order, police say.

Kias are generally recovered as they are stolen for joyrides, said Bill Dooley, administrative lieutenant with Fresno Police.

Kia owners can get software upgrades and free steering wheel locks from police departments, Bell said. They have distributed more than 370,000 locks nationwide.

“We also recently developed and introduced a new hardware modification, which is designed for vehicles that are not eligible for the software upgrade, and which works to combat theft by reinforcing the ignition cylinder body and preventing its removal through the method of theft promoted in videos that have spread across social media encouraging criminal activity,” Bell said.

With Technology Driving Car Thefts, Makers Have to Adapt

Car theft nationwide has been growing since the pandemic, with 2023 setting another record, NICB reported.

Thefts grew about 1% to reach 1.02 million in 2023. And, California had the most thefts along with the fifth-largest share per capita.

Thieves are also getting more sophisticated.

“Criminals are employing increasingly sophisticated methods to steal vehicles, including the use of advanced technology to bypass security systems,” said David J. Glawe, president and CEO of NICB. “From keyless entry hacks to relay attacks on key fobs, perpetrators are exploiting vulnerabilities in modern vehicle security measures with alarming success rates.

“It is critical that industry and law enforcement work together to develop more effective strategies for combating auto theft and safeguarding public safety.”

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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