Surging Hyundai and Kia thefts causing Club shortage – KSDK.com
Steering wheel locks are in high demand as owners scramble to stop soaring thefts.
ST. LOUIS — Joe Barbaglia has had The Club on the shelves at his Southwest Auto Parts store in south St. Louis for decades – but suddenly, he’s struggling to keep up.
Usually, a shipment of about a dozen of the steering wheel locks last for two to three months.
Now, he said he’s lucky if they last more than a week.
One viewer told us he went to six auto parts stores across the area and all were sold out.
That’s because the steering wheel lock is about the only thing police say can stop thieves from stealing some types of Hyundai and Kias made without engine immobilizing technology. The tool of choice thieves are using to steal them are USB cords – and it’s happening all over the country.
Hyundai and Kia owners in Milwaukee filed a class action lawsuit against the automakers in June 2021, which is still pending. There, the thieves have named a gang after their favorite brand: The Kia Boyz.
“The Milwaukee metropolitan area has — quite literally — been transformed into a game of Grand Theft Auto wherein the Kia Boyz are preying on the owners of these Class Vehicles to steal their cars in droves,” according to court documents filed in Milwaukee.
In the St. Louis area, the numbers are soaring, too.
Within the past 30 days, 78 Hyundais and 68 Kias have been reported stolen in St. Louis and St. Louis County, according to a police source.
In St. Louis city, police say thefts of Hyundais and Kias have increased by close to 400% compared to this time last year.
St. Louis Maj. Janice Bockstruck said The Club seems to be the only thing that’s stopping the surge in thefts.
“We have not seen any of them with a car club attached to it that have been stolen,” she said.
Barbaglia had two Kias with broken windows and broken ignition columns sitting on his auto repair lot earlier this week.
“When you have a Club on the car and you put it on the steering wheel, they see that yellow thing in a window, they have to deal with this also, besides the ignition switch, besides the wiring, so it’s easier if they just go to another car,” he said. “But if they don’t see that bright yellow club on your wheel, they’re going to break your window.”
He spent Monday stocking his shelves with his latest shipment.
“I hope they last a week,” he said.
What are Hyundai and Kia saying?
Given the explosion of thefts nationwide, Kia and Hyundai have vowed to make engine immobilizing standard on all new models.
Attorneys for Kia and Hyundai have noted in federal court filings stemming from that Milwaukee class action lawsuit that their cars did not make the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s list of the top 10 most stolen cars in 2021.
Kia and Hyundai attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, writing, in part: “Under Wisconsin law and under certain circumstances, an auto manufacturer may be obligated to warn vehicle owners of certain risks it discovers after the vehicles’ sale. Vehicle theft is not one such risk.”
Attorneys for the automakers also argued the vehicles are not defective.
“Warranties do …….