Kia thefts: Minneapolis woman's car targeted 3 times in 6 months

Twin Cities law enforcement officials have warned people in the metro about the increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts, which follows a nationwide trend. A Minneapolis woman says she’s been a target multiple times.

In the last seven months, it's happened not once, not twice, but three times to Lauren Hernandez. She’s sharing her story with FOX 9 because she wants other vehicle owners to be aware of the situation before it happens to them.

"I'm definitely not going to lease a Kia or Hyundai again," Hernandez said. "And I was a really loyal customer. Like, I was referring people left and right because I loved my car so much."

Her story began last December, when her leased 2019 Kia Soul was stolen from her apartment parking lot in south Minneapolis. That car was never recovered.

It was then that Hernandez first learned of law enforcement’s warnings around the country that Kias and Hyundais are easy to steal because they lack an electronic security device called an engine immobilizer.

"That (Kia Soul) was leased, and I had a deposit down on another Kia coming up. So I re-leased with Kia with the promise that engine immobilizers were now in their new vehicles, and so I felt pretty secure making that choice again," she explained.

But she now regrets that choice. Her second car, a 2022 Kia Seltos, was broken into in March and then stolen in June.

"I’m still really, really paranoid," she said. "We would joke that lightning would not strike three times, but I just feel super unlucky."

The police were able to recover the Seltos in St. Paul thanks to the Apple AirTag tracking device she left inside. But she spent a month this summer without a car.

"(The Kia Seltos) actually spent like more than 30 days in repairs because the shop that I went to had so many stolen Kias that they couldn't get parts in time to fix mine," Hernandez said.

Police have advised Kia and Hyundai owners to invest in steering wheel locks to help prevent the thefts. Hernandez told FOX 9 she put a steering wheel lock on her second Kia, and the thieves were able to take it right off.

After paying three insurance deductibles, she's now worried that her insurance company will drop her because she’s too much of a liability.

"Waking up in the morning and just going downstairs and not seeing it is the worst feeling ever as like someone that this has happened to more than once," Hernandez said. "I actually swapped cars with my fiancé’s parents so that they could keep the Kia in a garage until we're able to move and get a garage because I don't feel comfortable parking it around the Twin Cities right now."

Earlier this week, Kia told FOX 9 in a statement, "As of the current 2022 Model Year, all Kia vehicles have an engine immobilizer fitted as standard." Hernandez’s second car that was stolen was a 2022 model, so FOX 9 reached out to Kia to ask how that could be, but the company has not responded to our question.

Here’s Kia’s full statement from Monday:

"Kia America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of a subset of trim level vehicles in your area. As of the current 2022 Model Year, all Kia vehicles have an engine immobilizer fitted as standard. All Kia vehicles for sale in the U.S. meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia).