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Theft problem at Hyundai/Kia in US: Car theft via USB cable

In the United States, a particularly simple theft system is currently being observed, which primarily works with Hyundai and Kia models. Should owners in Germany also be concerned?

In Germany’s theft statistics, the Hyundai and Kia brands have so far been obscure. According to the latest estimate of the German Insurance Association (GDV), which refers to 2020, the Koreans occupy the gray midfield positions: in the year in question, just 275 Hyundais and 154 Kias were stolen. The theft rate, which measures the number of cars stolen against 1,000 cars registered, is 0.2 in both cases. By comparison: the leader Land Rover comes in at 1.9.


It’s different in the US: according to media reports, thefts of Hyundai and Kia models have increased significantly in recent years. Because some Korean model series are very easy to crack. The method looks so simple, it’s hard to believe: by connecting a mobile phone to a standard USB charger to a specific circuit in the car connector, thieves can bypass the signal that the key sends to the immobilizer as a prerequisite for starting the engine. Steering column.


“Surge in local car thefts is worrying”

The problem apparently revolved around the headquarters of the respective US importers. “Our vehicles meet or exceed federal motor vehicle safety standards, and immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles,” said a statement from Hyundai USA, cited by US media. However, this type of car theft does not work with other brands. According to “Automotive News” they are equipped with better immobilizers.

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“Hyundai Motor America is concerned about an increase in local vehicle theft,” the statement said. This is probably the case with police officers in some American communities. The city of Milwaukee in the US state of Wisconsin has reportedly already asked Hyundai and Kia to close the security gap. But, so far car manufacturers have done nothing; Nothing is known about a related recall.


Security gap in Germany?

Owners of Hyundai and Kia models in Germany now have to fear that their vehicles could become easy prey for car thieves. Hyundai Germany promised: “First, it affects models in the US, which generally differ greatly from European models in terms of equipment and sales variants, or are not sold in Europe,” according to Auto-Motor-and-Sport. Request

GDV / ADAC

However, in Frankfurt they should pay close attention to the GDV car theft statistics mentioned at the beginning: according to this, Hyundai (plus 52.8 percent) and Kia models (plus 63.8 percent) recorded the biggest growth in 2020 compared to the previous year. Under all specific brands, they have risen massively in favor of car thieves. The Kia Stinger was the third most stolen model per 1,000 cars (rate: 6.7), and the Hyundai Santa Fe (3.4; eleventh place) and Kia Sorento (2.7; 16th place) also ranked above average.


Note: In the slideshow at the top of the article, we show the Kia Telluride, a large seven-seat SUV for the U.S. after the 2023 model year facelift.


Survey

Conclusion

Is the sharp increase in recent GDV theft statistics for Hyundai and Kia models a coincidence, a statistical anomaly, or the result of word of America’s simple theft system already spreading to European car thieves? Can’t tell yet. However, we will be closely monitoring how manufacturers and the Central Motor Transport Authority deal with these discrepancies.