Owners of certain Hyundai and Kia models are being advised to take special precautions securing their vehicles due to a rash of thefts that has been sweeping cities across the nation.
Saint Petersburg, Florida, is the latest city to warn its citizens of the issue, reporting that nearly half of the cars stolen in recent weeks were from the sister brands.
"It's quite alarming, our numbers have gone up significantly, and it's got our attention," Saint Petersburg Detective Cody Lance said at a press conference this week.
The problem first came to the nation's attention in Milwaukee last year, where over 5,700 of the brands' cars were stolen through November, according to Fox 6.
Additional cities followed, including Columbus, Ohio, where Kias and Hyundais have accounted for 38% of all thefts so far this year.
FILE - Hyundai Motor Co. vehicles sit on display for sale on the lot of the Keyes Hyundai dealership in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles, Calif. (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Videos shared on social media demonstrated how the ignition systems in mainly 2011-2021 Kias and 2015-2021 Hyundais with physical keys could be easily hacked using a screwdriver, pliers or the end of a USB cable, because the vehicles are not equipped with immobilizers that require the presence of a key fob with a transponder to work.
Fox News Autos is not detailing the technique, which involves removing the steering column cover, further damaging the vehicle.
"Hyundai Motor America is concerned with the rise in local auto thefts. The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will remain our top priority," the automaker told Fox News Autos.
"These vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and engine immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles."
Kia echoed Hyundai's statement.
Kia and Hyundai gave out steering wheel locks to some owners in Milwaukee last year, but have not offered a built-in permanent solution and several multiple class-action lawsuits have been filed against them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that all car owners take simple precautions to protect their vehicles against theft, regardless of the brand.
These include parking in well-lit areas when a garage is not available, remembering to close and lock all windows and doors, removing valuables or keeping them out of sight from outside the vehicle, and taking the key or key fob when leaving the vehicle.
Consumer Reports adds that a steering wheel lock may act as a deterrent, and that low-cost aftermarket alarms and tracking systems can help prevent the theft or complete loss of a vehicle.