Major insurance companies halt new policies for Kias, Hyundais amid St. Louis-area theft surge
Published in Automotive News
State Farm made a similar decision to decline new policies in November, said State Farm salesperson Josh Franklin. A corporate State Farm spokeswoman declined to comment.
Other insurers, such as Nationwide and Geico, have opted to raise drivers' premiums on those makes and models instead. St. Louis insurance agent Osvaldo Aguilar said premiums on those specific cars are increasing at a higher rate than other vehicles.
Maplewood, Missouri, resident Jay Zunich said the six-month Geico premium for his 2020 Hyundai Elantra went up by about $200 when he renewed the policy in December — from about $600 to $800.
"My first thought is, 'Holy cow that's outrageous,'" he told the Post-Dispatch. "So I start shopping around."
He, too, was denied by Progressive. Other companies quoted him rates as high as $350 a month for his car, even though his Elantra is a push-start and cannot be stolen the way as key-start models.
"It's definitely frustrating," he said.
Despite companies' increasing rates — and outright refusals by others — Missouri's Insurance Consumer Affairs Division, which investigates complaints against insurance companies, has not received any complaints about companies refusing to provide coverage, said Caty Luebbert, a spokeswoman for the division.
"We are aware that insurance companies are considering business decisions on how best to deal with the rise in thefts of certain makes and models of these vehicles," Luebbert wrote in an email. "Our department is monitoring the situation and working diligently to ensure that the business decisions comply with the Missouri insurance laws and regulations."
The companies are "well within their rights" to refuse new policies, said Barry, with the Insurance Information Institute. He noted that insurance companies generally want to keep existing customers, but they can legally issue nonrenewal notices to policyholders as long as they provide about two months' notice.
Officials recommend drivers secure their Hyundais and Kias with a car wheel club and contact the manufacturers about security kits that can be installed to prevent theft.
Three national insurance groups sent a joint letter to YouTube last week urging the social media platform to remove how-to videos that provide detailed instructions for stealing Kias and Hyundais.
And in August, St. Louis took steps to hold the car manufacturers accountable, demanding in a letter that the companies take responsibility for the thefts, and threatened a lawsuit over the defect if they did not.
Kia and Hyundai attorneys noted in their response to the city the security device is not federally required.
But in an ongoing, national class-action suit against the manufacturers, attorneys argue it is federally required for cars to have a system that does not start or steer when the key is removed.
"When the key is removed from the starting system, neither steering nor forward self-mobility is prevented," the suit said. "If it were, the vehicles would not be stolen at alarming rates."
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