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Hyundai & Kia Car Thefts Are Up In Milwaukee, Here's How It's Being Addressed

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra
Mark Savage
Hyundai models made in 2015 or newer, like the 2017 Elantra (pictured), are being targeted for auto theft. Kia models built in 2011 or newer are also some of the most common vehicles being stolen.

Across the country and here in the greater Milwaukee area, Hyundai and Kia models have become the target of break-ins and thefts. The design of these cars have some security flaws that make it easier to start without a key if they're certain model years.

For Kias, if your car was built in 2011 or newer it's at risk. For Hyundais, it's 2015 models or newer according to Lake Effect auto contributor Mark Savage.

While most cars do have standard security systems, Savage explains that the rear window is not on that system for these car models. Therefore, someone can remove or break the back window to get into the car to start it relatively easily even without a key fob.

"[People can] still use a screwdriver, a wrench, I'm told that you can also jump the ignition by using the USB port somehow. So car thieves have figured this out so there's been a big jump, and I think demand for used cars and car parts is up right now," says Savage.

60% of the thefts in Milwaukee are an even split between Kias and Hyundais and the problem has been so widespread that the car companies have worked with local police departments, to provide about 2,000 free steering wheel lockswith proof of ownership according to Savage.

He notes that the cars with a push button start or an engine immobilizer are harder to steal. "It's almost always the low end models that don't have that push button start ... but chances are if you went up to the mid-level or upper level you do have that and you do have protection," Savage says.

Going forward, Hyundai and Kia are addressing this problem and making corrections.

"The Hyundai rep that I talked to did say that all cars starting this September, all the cars will have on the immobilizer and everything will be protected from this point going forward," explains Savage. While he didn't get a confirmation from Kia, Savage suspects they will follow suit since Hyundai owns Kia and many of their cars share certain engine and power train systems.

If your car model is one of those being targeted, Savage offers these tips:

  • Lock your car any time you're not in it
  • Park in your garage, or if you have to park on a public street, try to park under a street light
  • Don't leave anything of value in your car
  • Don't leave your title in the car "because then it's easy for [someone who steals the car] to claim it's theirs, put their address on the title, send it in and either put it in their own name or sell it to someone else."
  • Consider etching your identifying VIN number (usually found on the plate hidden towards the bottom of the windshield by the dashboard) into the windows of the car so that "if someone steals it, it's obvious it is a stolen car."
Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
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