car theft

Some victims of Kia, Hyundai theft facing backlog of parts

NBC Universal, Inc.

After someone tried to steal her 2012 Kia Sportage last month, Alice Kunce counted herself lucky: She still has her car, and it’s drivable.

But Kunce, of Washington, D.C., soon encountered a new headache: finding someone to fix the damage left behind.

The school teacher said she and her insurance agent called several body shops in the D.C. area, hoping to find someone to repair her busted back window and steering wheel column.

“When I called the first body shop that my insurance recommended, he kind of laughed -- like, not in a mean way -- but he was like, we're not working on Kias or Hyundais,” she told News4. “My insurance claims adjuster said she would call around, and she has not been able to find anyone who will work on it, either.”

Kunce is among potentially thousands of Kia and Hyundai owners whose cars have been vandalized or stolen, with many left in limbo as they wait for replacement parts.

For well over a year, the I-Team has been tracking the surge in theft of older model Kia and Hyundais that lack a standard immobilizer, making them easy to hotwire with a USB cord.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said theft claim frequency for 2003 to 2023 Hyundai and Kia models was seven times as high in the last six months of 2022 as it was in early 2020, and four times as high as other carmakers between July to December 2022.

What's more, the IIHS reports vandalism insurance claims -- presumably from theft attempts -- were roughly twice as high for Hyundai and Kia cars as other makers in that same time frame.

The I-Team called more than a half dozen body shops in the area, with all confirming they’re experiencing long delays for older model Kia and Hyundai replacement parts.

“Be prepared to wait a long time,” Abdi Barre, a manager at Autobody Dimensions in Gaithersburg, Maryland, advised.

Barre said the problem is so bad that he can’t tell his customers when parts like ignition lock cylinders will become available.

“One time we had an ignition cylinder on order, we were number 86 on the list,” he said. “From last year to this day, it still hasn’t shown up.”

The issue isn't just that millions of these cars are considered vulnerable to theft and vandalism. The I-Team found that, because they're older model vehicles, many of the parts are out of production.

In a statement a Kia spokesman said that, “previous to this issue" these cars "had very little parts demand."

Now Kia is working with vendors to “re-introduce production," telling News4 it has “updated our systems so customers who have been the victims of theft are given top priority for expedited distribution of needed parts.”

A spokesman for Hyundai, which has an ownership stake in Kia, told the I-Team that “while ignition lock cylinders are experiencing backorders," Hyundai is "minimizing the aging of these back-ordered parts through expedited air shipments throughout the supply chain from Korea to U.S. dealers.”

And as more car owners get the updated software fix offered to drivers for free, both automakers hope to see demand for parts slow down.

“But the unfortunate thing is the thieves don't know if you have the software or not. They still will break into your car,” Barre said.

After weeks of waiting, Kunce credits Safelite for replacing her broken car window, but said she and her insurance adjuster are still trying to find a body shop that will fix her steering column.

And though she’s grateful she can still drive her vehicle, she said she worries about how many times thieves may try to steal it again, anyway.

Reported by Susan Hogan, produced by Katie Leslie, and shot and edited by Carlos Olazagasti and Jeff Piper. NBC4 photographer Steve Jones contributed to this report.

Contact Us