How Kias And Hyundais Became The Most Stolen Vehicle In America

Social media showed a whole generation of poorly supervised kids how to commit real grand theft auto.

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Image: Kia Motors

Some Kia and Hyundai models are so incredibly easy to steal that insurance companies in some states are refusing to cover them. What started as almost a meme has become a crime wave hitting those who rely on the most affordable vehicles on the market to get around. So, just how did we get here?

What started as a curious trend in the Milwaukee area in 2021 took the country by storm using, what else, social media. Vox has a great breakdown of the worrying TikTok trend from start to present day:

The Hyundai and Kia thefts are so easy to do and have become so prevalent that some of the stories and statistics are absurd. People’s cars are stolen twice in one day. Some wait months for repairs to their stolen and recovered cars because there’s a back order of parts due to so many stolen cars needing them at the same time. Sixty-one percent of vehicles stolen in St. Louis in the last year are Kias and Hyundais, as are 88 percent of attempted thefts. Kia and Hyundai thefts increased by 767 percent in a year in the Chicago area, and they’re up almost 2,400 percent in Rochester, New York. The top seven out of 10 cars stolen in Wisconsin, where the trend began, in 2021 and 2022 were Kias and Hyundais. In 2020, only the Hyundai Sonata made Wisconsin’s top 10. Insurers are refusing to cover certain Kia and Hyundai models, or jacking up rates.

The damage isn’t just to cars, however. Several teens have died or been seriously hurt by crashing stolen Kias and Hyundais, which officials have attributed to the challenge. There are also crimes committed by people driving the stolen cars. There have been injuries (and in at least one case, possibly a death) to people who were hit by stolen cars. And there’s property damage, like houses that the stolen cars crash into.


Ugh. The whole thing is a real mess. Kia and Hyundai didn’t help matters with their lackluster response either. These kids are stealing the some of the more modest vehicles on the market in their own communities, likely driven by folks they know and who can ill-afford to dick around with insurance or wait around for backed up repairs. All for the views.

The entire rundown from Vox is interesting. You can read it here.