Some Kia, Hyundai and Honda models are getting stolen in New York City so often that the Mayor is giving out Apple AirTags to help residents track their vehicles.
The city plans to distribute 500 AirTags to residents to place in their cars to combat car thefts in target neighborhoods, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced at a press conference on Sunday.
AirTags, which cost $29 when bought individually, are small tracking devices that can be placed in cars or other personal items to help locate them. They allow users to track the location of their items through an app on their iPhones.
Adams made the announcement in a Bronx neighborhood that has seen over 200 car thefts this year alone — the highest of any precinct in the city. The mayor said the thieves appear to steal certain cars more frequently — specifically Kias, Hyundais and Hondas. The Mayor’s statement did not indicate whether the AirTags would be made available only to those with especially vulnerable vehicles.
The NYPD will not track the AirTags being given away, authorities said. Instead, when owners realize their car is missing, they can notify police, who will track the stolen vehicle with the owner’s permission, Adams said.
NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell said TikTok challenge videos released in 2022 drove many people to steal Kias and Hyundais, due to the disclosure of a “manufacturing defect” in the cars that allows them to be easily started without keys.
The Hyundai and Kia vehicles in question include the Hyundai Santa Fe and Tucson, and the Kia Forte and Sportage, with 2015-2019 model years. When equipped with turn-key ignitions — as opposed to cars with push-button starters — these models are roughly twice as likely to be stolen as other vehicles of a similar age.
Many of these vehicles lack some of the basic auto theft prevention technology, specifically electronic engine immobilizers, included in most other vehicles even in those years, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute, an industry group that tracks insurance statistics.
While they operate as separate companies in the United States, Hyundai and Kia are closely related companies and share much of the engineering in their vehicles.
Earlier this month, Adams announced that the city planned to join an ongoing lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai for “refusing to equip certain models of both cars with standard anti-theft measures following an uptick in car thefts,” a press release from his office states.
So far this year, the NYPD has recorded thefts of 966 Kia and Hyundai cars – marking an increase of 819 cars since last year, Chell said.
Honda has included standard engine immobilizers in its most popular models since at least 2002, according to a spokesperson. Nevertheless, Honda Accords have been targeted for thefts in recent years, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute, especially later models with fashionable larger wheels.
In a recent statement, Hyundai said it is “committed to ensuring the quality and integrity of our products.”
The automaker went on to say that it has taken “comprehensive action” to assist customers. That action includes, in part, standardizing engine immobilizers on all vehicles as of November 2021 and rolling out a software upgrade to “prevent the method of theft involved, two months ahead of schedule.”
Kia said recently that it is also committed to working with law enforcement to combat thefts.
Kia added that it will “continue to roll out a free, enhanced security software upgrade to restrict the unauthorized operation of vehicle ignition systems and we are also providing steering wheel locks for impacted owners at no cost to them.”
The 500 AirTags are being provided by the Association for a Better New York, a nonprofit dedicated to “the continuous growth and renewal of New York City’s people, communities, and businesses,” according to its website. The mayor urged all car owners to consider AirTags for their vehicles.
CNN’s Liam Reilly contributed to this report.