Over 850 Kia, Hyundai vehicles stolen in New Orleans in 2022
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In the Garden District of New Orleans, water spewed from a fire hydrant near the corner of Magazine and Second Streets. It’s the aftermath of Friday night (Dec. 16), when a stolen 2017 Hyundai Tucson ran a stop sign and was t-boned by a car at the busy intersection.
“The car bags were hanging from the sides,” Caitlin Dwyer said. “There were dents on both sides and there were a few pieces missing from the underside of it.”
The Hyundai belonged to Dwyer, a FOX 8 producer. She says she was sound asleep when her car was stolen right outside her house in her Uptown neighborhood.
“It’s a little frustrating. It’s a little scary. Our neighborhood is relatively quiet so it’s a little alarming they were able to take the car without anyone noticing,” she said.
On Dec. 10, a similar theft happened to George Ingmire at his Musician’s Village home.
“I came out of my house to go to the store, and I looked out and saw no car,” Ingmire said. “I saw broken glass and called the police.”
His 2014 Kia Sorento was recovered two days later in the Lower 9th Ward with more than $8,000 in damages, according to the repair estimate from his car insurer.
Both Ingmire and Dwyer say their cars were likely broken into and started the same way, spurred by a series of criminally instructional TikToks believed to have originated in Milwaukee, Wisconsin last year.
“They broke out the rear driver’s side window. They tore up the steering column and more than likely they did what everyone is doing when trying to steal these cars,” Ingmire said. “They jumped it with the cell phone charger I keep in my car and a screwdriver. It takes less than three minutes.”
The thieves may have taken advantage of some Kias and Hyundais not being manufactured with an engine immobilizer. The issue was widely seen on social media videos posted earlier this year.
In 2022, the New Orleans Police Department says 465 Hyundais manufactured between 2015-2021 and 389 Kias made between 2010-2021 have been stolen. Police say the models all have mechanical-keyed ignitions and lack an engine immobilizer.
But it’s not just New Orleans that is feeling the effects of the immobilizer issue.
“It involves millions of vehicles,” Ken McClain, with Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, P.C., said. “It’s unclear, because of discoveries at the beginning, just how many vehicles we are talking about. Many of the vehicles sold by Hyundai and Kia did not have immobilizing devices.”
McClain is leading a class-action lawsuit against both car companies representing over 500 people. He wants to see vehicle owners get some kind of compensation or a recall to fix the immobilizer issue, especially with some people having trouble getting their vehicles insured after the nationwide uptick in thefts.
“Those are very problematic for people who are going to be required under law to be insured and can’t be insured in order to be licensed,” he said.
McClain also says the lack of an immobilizer is causing the resale price of Kias and Hyundais to plummet.
According to Forbes.com, both car companies are looking into software updates that would prevent thefts, but they would be ready until at least the first half of 2023.
Hyundai has offered a Compustar Firstech glass-break sensor security kit that customers have to pay $170 for. Both companies are also working with police departments in certain cities to hand out steering wheel locks.
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