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Thieves caught on camera in Minneapolis stealing Hyundai, Kia SUVs in broad daylight

Hyundai says it's issuing a security kit this weekend to help prevent thefts after a design flaw makes them easy targets.

MINNEAPOLIS — Hyundai and Kia vehicles continue to be a target for thieves. New data shows thefts continue to skyrocket because some models are so easy to steal.

It happened to one Minneapolis woman in broad daylight.

Melissa Winship could see it all unfolding from her front window on Sept. 18 — thieves caught on a security camera, stealing her Hyundai SUV and her neighbor's Kia.

"There are so many reasons it could have been worse, but it’s definitely still a big inconvenience in my life," said Winship. "All I could do was sit here and hope police come and interrupt it."

What happened to Winship is part of a nationwide trend that shows Hyundai and Kia thefts spiking.

In St. Paul, police report 622 of those vehicles were stolen January through August, compared to 79 that same time last year. Minneapolis Police say, last year at this time, there were 40 Kia vehicles stolen and this year, that number has soared to more than 200.

"They came and did it because they could and it's all over TikTok and YouTube telling them they could," said Winship.

A class action lawsuit filed this month alleges that there's an issue with a traditional key, making certain models easy to start — with even a USB port, screwdriver or pocketknife.

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"They take off the whole steering area and the shape fits perfectly into the little metal piece and to turn it," said Winship. "If nothing is done and this just keeps happening, I can see myself not wanting that car anymore."

In a statement, both Kia and Hyundai say their newer models have "push button to start" systems making them harder to steal.

"Hyundai Motor America is concerned about the recent rise in auto thefts of certain Hyundai model vehicles. While all of our vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, unfortunately, our vehicles have been targeted in a coordinated effort on social media. Criminals are targeting our vehicles without engine immobilizers. Immobilizers became standard on all vehicles produced after November 1, 2021," writes Ira Gabriel, head of Corporate and Marketing PR for Hyundai Motor America.

"While no car can be made theft-proof, criminals are seeking vehicles solely equipped with a steel key and “turn-to-start” ignition system. The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and “push-button-to-start” system, making them more difficult to steal. All 2022 Kia models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the model year or as a running change," writes James Bell, head of communications for Kia America.

The two are also offering steering wheel locks to law enforcement, like the St. Paul Police Department that gave one to Winship for free. 

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And starting October 1st, Hyundai will start distributing security kits, but its spokesman wouldn't say how much they might cost to buy or install, writing instead, "Beginning October 1, 2022, this security kit will be available for purchase and installation at Hyundai dealerships and Compustar authorized installers across the country. Hyundai will provide additional details soon, and customers who have questions can always contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151."

Kia says it's not announcing a similar kit at this time. 

"If there's a way from to prevent this from happening, why wouldn't they just give it out to those people," asked Winship, who is hopeful that telling her story leads to more accountability from the automakers.

"I’m that angry, I’m that frustrated, I’m that pissed off that it has to get out there," said Winship. "I think it’s the only way something is going to happen if those of us that experienced this get out there and make a fuss about it."

Police eventually found Winship's SUV, but it needs to be repaired. And with lingering supply chain issues, the parts are on back order and she says it could be at least a month before she gets it back.

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