Apr 10, 2023 - News

Thefts of Kias and Hyundais are up in Philadelphia

Police-reported car thefts in Philadelphia
Note: Counts of stolen vehicle incidents are unique incidents. If multiple cars are stolen in the same incident then it is only counted once; Data: Philadelphia Police Department; Chart: Axios Visuals

Car thefts are on the rise in Philly and a TikTok trend may be to blame.

What’s happening: Thefts of Kias and Hyundais are driving the surge, accounting for nearly 58% of the 5,110 stolen vehicle reports during the first three months of the year, according to the Philadelphia Police Department.

Why it matters: Kias and Hyundais became a target due to a design flaw, forcing owners to use old-fashioned steering-wheel locks to keep their cars safe, Axios' Annalise Frank writes.

The big picture: Other major cities including Atlanta and Chicago, have seen a significant rise in car theft, particularly among Kias and Hyundais, Axios’ Herb Scribner writes.

By the numbers: Car theft reports in Philly over the past year ending in March topped 15,840 — up 61.5% compared to the prior year, per police data.

  • Thefts targeting Kias and Hyundais started picking up mid-2022, reaching a high of 1,087 incidents in January compared to 89 during the same time back in 2021.

Between the lines: Nearly all of the stolen vehicle reports for Kias and Hyundais involve thieves breaking a window, removing part of the steering column, and using a USB device to start the vehicles, Capt. Jason Smith, head of the department’s major crimes unit, tells Axios.

  • Knowledge of the design flaw came from a recent TikTok challenge.
  • Police think juveniles are behind the “overwhelming majority” of the vehicle thefts, Smith said.

The intrigue: The ease of stealing Kias and Hyundais is being attributed to a decline in carjackings, which are down 31% through April 4 compared to the same time in 2022, Capt. Smith said.

  • Of note: Kias and Hyundais, typically, are not targets for carjackings because they’re so easy to steal.
  • “It all started with this TikTok challenge, and it just grew from there and now it’s just common knowledge,” he said.

The bottom line: In response, Kia and Hyundai have both released "theft deterrent software" for more than 8 million vehicles.

  • Police are determining when and how to distribute free steering-wheel locks to Kia and Hyundai owners that the department received from the manufacturers.
  • Of note: The department canceled an event to distribute free anti-theft devices planned for February.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more