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By Rachel Polansky

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    ATLANTA (WANF) — Only four months into 2023, 572 Kia’s and Hyundai’s have been stolen in Atlanta.

Last year at this time, there were only 59 this time. That’s an 870 percent increase.

We’ve told you about the Tik Tok challenge being blamed for the rash of Kia and Hyundai thefts in Georgia and across the country. The challenge shows how to steal a Kia or Hyundai using just a USB cord. The cars affected are Kia’s made between 2010 and 2021 and Hyundai’s manufactured between 2015 and 2021.

The cost of these crimes is something that could impact all drivers, even those who don’t drive a Kia or Hyundai.

“I had a Hyundai Sonata that was stolen,” said Zack Jones, a southwest Atlanta resident. “The back window was broken. I came out to go to work and I noticed my car was gone.”

“My phone rings,” East Atlanta’s Mike Katinsky recalled. “My roommate … starts yelling for me. She heard my car start up and saw my car pulling out of the driveway. She said, ‘somebody just stole your car.’”

In both cases, the locked cars were stolen right in front of the owners’ homes. Both men filed police reports. And the police did find both cars, but they’d been abandoned and were in rough shape.

Woman’s beloved Mitsubishi sits in shop for 8 months waiting on repairs But the problems didn’t end there. Many body shops are turning these drivers away because they can’t get the necessary parts to fix the cars.

“Most of the parts are three months backorder to six months backorder,” said Matt Chae of Kong’s Body Shop. “We don’t even know when they’re available and Kia and Hyundai won’t even give us an ETA on them.”

That means many recovered Hyundai’s and Kia’s are currently sitting in lots, awaiting parts.

“It’s kind of like throwing darts,” Chae added. “You just gotta hope for the best.”

State Farm and Progressive are also refusing to write new policies for certain models of Kia’s and Hyundai’s.

But as insurance companies continue paying out claims connected to these thefts, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute said everyone could all pay the price.

“There are a number of rating factors that impact what you pay for insurance but the location is a big one,” said Scott Holeman, the institute’s spokesperson. “If you’re in a community seeing an increase in theft, it makes sense that you’re going to see prices increase as well.”

Even if you don’t drive a Kia or Hyundai, if you live in Atlanta, it’s likely your insurance premium will continue to rise, until these trends are reversed.

While both car manufacturers rolled out a software update in February, the fix will require drivers to visit a dealer for installation. Meanwhile, both Kia and Hyundai are working with Atlanta police to distribute free steering wheel locks – also known as the “club,” which you probably used in 1995 – to those affected.

Those who have had their cars stolen once are willing to give it a try. “I came to get one of these to make sure next time, it doesn’t happen again,” Jones said.

Atlanta police said juveniles are driving these crimes and many of these stolen cars are turning up at other crime scenes.

“We ask parents, you don’t want your children caught up in these investigations,” said Capt. Ralph Woolfork. “Throughout the summer, we need parents to know where their children are.”

Atlanta residents who drive a vulnerable Kia or Hyundai and want a steering wheel lock can stop by your local precinct or email Atlanta police at abclay@atlantaga.gov.

You can also call Hyundai at 800-633-5151 or Kia at 800-333-4542 for more information on the software update.

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