Hyundai and Kia thefts hurt rental car customers

Rich O’Hearn says car rental companies should stop renting high-theft vehicles or warn consumers of the risk.

ST. LOUIS — Rich O’Hearn needed to rent a car while his car was in the store, but ended up becoming another victim of the Hyundai/Kia theft epidemic that swept the country.

Enterprise gave him a Hyundai Elantra on Wednesday.

He took him downtown to see a Cardinals game on Thursday.

“I came back after the game and it was broken into and undriveable,” he said.

Four days after reporting the damage, the car was still lying in the street in front of houses not far from the stadium. Unbeknownst to the thieves, it was equipped with anti-theft technology. They didn’t know until they broke the window, turned off the ignition, and tried to start it with a USB cable.

This is how police say thieves calling themselves The Kia Boyz are stealing thousands of certain makes and models of Hyundais and Kias that weren’t equipped with immobilizer technology – and teaching others how to do it on social networks.

Now O’Hearn says he’s responsible for towing costs, window repairs and ignition.

He rejected the insurance Enterprise offered him when he rented the car, “like most people do,” he said.

His deductible is $1,000 and he fears his premium will increase.

“All of these rental companies are aware of this problem,” he said.

But, he wasn’t, until it happened to him.

“I just want these rental car companies to educate people about this issue because people come into town, if they don’t know about this issue, which I really didn’t know, and it happens,” did he declare. “Then you get paid for an additional expense for insurance rates or deductibles or who knows what else and inconvenience.”

Enterprise provided the following statement:

“It’s not just a car rental problem, it’s a consumption problem. We support working with local leaders and authorities to promote efforts that ultimately protect our customers from crime and theft. Such incidents not only cause damage to vehicles, but they increase costs over time associated with the purchase of expensive parts and repairs.”

Rental companies Avis, Budget and Hertz have also not yet responded to requests for comment. 2021 models that don’t have push-button ignition or immobilizer technology.

Hyundai has since made immobilizers standard on all vehicles produced after November 1, 2021.

All 2022 Kia models and trim levels have immobilizers applied “either at the start of the model year as an ongoing change,” according to a release from Kia.

Hyundai and Kia owners in at least seven states have filed class action lawsuits against the automakers.

In response to the first lawsuit filed in Milwaukee, attorneys for the automakers argued that their products weren’t defective because they couldn’t control the criminals who chose to steal them, and that consumers had the ability to buy levels higher finishes with immobilizers.

In statements, Hyundai and Kia promised to work with local law enforcement agencies to find spikes in thefts.

So far, St. Louis police have handed out 100 free steering wheel locks that Hyundai Motor America sent to them.

This year, more than 1,200 Hyundais and Kias have been stolen, according to St. Louis police.

Hyundai Motor America is also making safety kits available starting Oct. 1 at Hyundai dealerships and Compustar Authorized Installers across the country. Hyundai reps said they don’t have a cost estimate for the kits, but online searches show they cost between $75 and $150 each.

For those in the car rental market, O’Hearn said he hopes the industry better protects consumers like him.

“I think they should be, at least on these type of cars, warning people that, ‘Hey, that’s what we have for a car, there’s a high risk that it could be broken into or stolen. ‘” O’Hearn said.

Where to buy a steering wheel lock

Clubs are available for $15 at the Five Star Senior Center at 2832 Arsenal St, the St. Louis Citizens Service Bureau, or the Department of Revenue. Residents should call City Hall ahead of time to check availability, bring proof of city residency, and pay in cash.

For club information, call 314-622-4800 or visit the city’s website.

Non-St. Louis residents can find the devices online or at most auto parts stores.

Do you have concerns about your vehicle?

Kia’s consumer help line is 1-800-333-4542.

Hyundai customers can call the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151.

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