KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles have increased across the metro.
“They had busted out the rear window to get access to the car," said Bill Thompson.
He reported his Kia stolen from outside his Independence home. Days later, police called to let him know his car was found in Blue Springs.
“It’s a total loss. I’m looking at a new engine, which could be $6,000 to $7,000, which I don’t have. I don’t have any savings," he said.
Thompson is one of many Kia and Hyundai vehicle owners who are recent theft victims.
The rise in theft is attributed to a social media trend where people are exploiting a security flaw, using only a USB charging cord to start the engine.
This impacts vehicles that don't have an engine immobilizer, a device that prevents a car from being stolen without the correct key.
In Kansas City, Missouri, KCPD investigators said vehicle thefts accounted for upwards of 50% of all stolen cars in the city this year. The most recent numbers from KCPD in March report 509 Kias and Hyundais were stolen for the year.
In Kansas City, Kansas, a police spokesperson said 163 Kias and 110 Hyundais were reported stolen so far in 2023.
In Overland Park, a police spokesperson said 112 Kias were stolen and 52 were recovered, and 85 Hyundai's were stolen while 58 have been recovered.
According to Independence Police, 337 Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been stolen so far in 2023. Last year, 141 vehicles were stolen.
Officer Jack Taylor, a spokesperson for Independence Police said officers are doing their best to stop the thefts
“Our patrol officers are aware that’s what’s going on, and when they do have time, when they’re not on call and they’re not tied up with other things, they are patrolling neighborhoods, and they are watching out for these types of things. We know it’s a problem and needs to be addressed," said Taylor.
Independence law firm Humphrey, Farrington & McClain is part of a class-action lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai. In May, a proposed $200 million settlement was announced.
"Some of the Kia and Hyundai models were supplied with immobilizers, but some weren’t. It was an optional item in the Kia and Hyundai line," explained attorney Kenneth McClain.
“These problems need to be fixed when it’s recognized that this is affecting so many of your loyal car buyers," he said. "It can’t be ignored and be left to the criminal Justice system.”
The car makers have offered free anti-theft software upgrades for impacted vehicles as well as steering wheel locks.
"Kia remains committed to assisting our customers and upholding vehicle security," said John Yoon, chief legal officer of Kia America, Inc.
Thompson is waiting to find out if his damaged car can be fixed without cost to him, but he wants the people responsible for the thefts to know it hurts people like him.
“You need to think of who you’re hurting when you’re stealing these cars, because you’re stealing from working people,” he said.