Almost a year ago, a TikTok video showing how easy it is to steal some Kia and Hyundai models went viral, leading to a wave of car thefts. It wasn’t long before owners of these particular models were finding it more difficult to obtain car insurance.
In January, CNN reported that both State Farm and Progressive were shying away from issuing policies. Now apparently, other insurance carriers have taken that position.
NPR reports a Colorado woman purchased a used Kia Forte but was unable to find any insurance company that would cover it. According to the report, the woman used an insurance broker to help her but was turned down a dozen times.
A Kia model belonging to Trice, of Warren, Mich., is one of the hundreds that have been stolen. The car is still insured but it costs a lot more.
“Car insurance shot up after paying the same amount for three years,” Trice wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. “Nobody else will insure this car for under $300 a month as a new customer.”
Why they are so easy to steal
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), many 2015-19 Hyundai and Kia vehicles lack electronic immobilizers that prevent thieves from simply breaking in and bypassing the ignition. The feature is standard equipment on nearly all vehicles of that vintage made by other manufacturers.
Both Kia and Hyundai have the problem because they are made by the same company. The brands have developed a fix but it may take time to apply it to all the affected vehicles.
Hugh Allen, principal product strategist at Hi Marley, a communication platform for the insurance industry, says carriers are simply reacting to the numbers as they analyze risk.
"While it may not seem fair to consumers, carriers rely on hard facts and historical trending data to change their rules, he told us. “The fix marketed by Hyundai and Kia must be proven. I’m not sure that a necessary amount of time has transpired for data to be collected and change the risk results.”
Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com, believes the insurance industry is being shortsighted and is unnecessarily punishing consumers. He offers the following analysis:
You happen to live in an area where there are 100 registered Hyundais or Kias. In an average year, one gets stolen. But after the TikTok video, maybe seven of the models were stolen in the following 12 months.
“The insurance company looks at that and sees a 700% increase,” Brauer told ConsumerAffairs. “But another way to look at that is 93 Kias weren’t stolen. There’s a lot going on with these cars being stolen, compared to what was going on before. But it’s not that most of them are being stolen, or even half. It’s a tiny percentage.”
Meanwhile, pressure is growing for the automaker to do something to resolve the issue. In March, 23 state attorneys general called on Hyundai-Kia to take “swift and comprehensive action to help remedy the crisis of car thefts that has occurred due to the companies’ failure to equip vehicles with anti-theft immobilizers.”
In a letter to the automaker, the state officials pointed out that Kia and Hyundai chose not to include anti-theft immobilizers as standard equipment on several vehicle models sold in the U.S. during a period when every other car manufacturer was doing so.
“Kia and Hyundai failed to equip their vehicles with industry-standard anti-theft technology, and customers are now paying a steep price,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. “These cars are now disproportionately targeted by thieves at rates so high some insurers are refusing to cover them. Kia and Hyundai need to make this right—quickly, and without nickel and diming their customers.”