Car dealers develop tech fix to deter would-be car thieves

Caroline Heckle

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British stone. Louis, Missouri (KMOV) – Since the beginning of 2022, an average of 27 vehicles have been stolen each day in St. Louis. Louis and St. Louis County incorporated. Now, a local car dealership is trying to be part of the solution.

Suntrup Kia and Hyundai’s service director, Elliot Silk, began working with several of his technicians to come up with a solution to the problem.

“About about eight months ago, it started coming up faster and faster, and then of course customers kept calling me and saying, ‘What are you going to do?'” Silk said. “Well, no one had done anything about it, so my colleagues and I thought about it and we came up with a solution ourselves.”

Silk said he spent the past three months developing a Bluetooth interrupter that prevents the ignition from flipping without pressing a button on a Bluetooth key fob. The installation fee is $200.

“When you insert the key, turn the key and press the start button, it starts instantly,” he said. “You can take the key out and put it back in, and no matter how many times you try, as long as you press the button on the Bluetooth device, the car won’t start.”

Earlier this year, Silke said the Kia dealership had more than 100 stolen cars waiting in its lot for repair. Most thieves break windows and remove the steering column before using a USB cable to start the car.

“Because it’s a national issue, we’re experiencing parts shortages and glass shortages at Kia and Hyundai,” he said. “So we have some cars waiting three months for parts and repairs.”

Silk said he aims to install the technology on all Kias and Hyundais, new and old, at both dealerships. The technology is currently being rolled out and Suntrup is accepting appointments for its installation.

While the fix won’t stop thieves from breaking into your car and causing damage, Silk says it’s nearly impossible to start the car.

“The cost of fixing a broken window or steering column, while expensive, is nowhere near as much as buying a new or used car in the current market,” he said. “Also, if it’s your only car, we all know it’s almost impossible to find a rental car these days, so it’s a big inconvenience.”

The technology is designed to work on most makes and models, with the exception of European cars.

There have been 2,552 vehicle thefts in St. Louis County so far this year, a 75 percent increase from a year earlier when the county had 1,452. In St. Louis, police said they have recorded 6,490 burglaries so far this year, an 84 percent increase from nearly 3,500 during the same period last year.

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