Consumer Alert: The KIA crisis through the eyes of one repair shop owner

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — This consumer alert pulls back the curtain on a side of the KIA crisis you’ve not seen before.

Repair shops are filled to the brim with KIAs and Hyundais with broken steering wheel columns. That’s the part thieves break to steal those cars. So as you can imagine, a local repair shop that specializes in repairing cars with broken steering wheel columns is now inundated with calls from desperate victims.

Since a TikTok video provided a veritable tutorial on how to steal a KIA, thieves, many not old enough to drive, can break a window and then the steering column, and take off in the car in a matter of seconds. So a man named Bob Dow, owner of a business called Stolen and Recovered has so much business, he had to squeeze in time for our interview.

Bob has seen it all. His shop is a testament to what he does. Dozens of steering wheel columns from cars canned long ago hang from the ceiling like hapless reminders of times past when thieves could hotwire a car.

“In the 80’s a lot of the GM cars were stolen,” said Dow. “It was quite easy to knock them out and some of the Fords, and they used to steal them all the time. So we developed the business of repairing the steering columns.”

But in the last two decades, vehicle anti-theft mechanisms have become commonplace, making that part of Dow’s business obsolete, or so he thought. He was unaware that the manufacturers of KIA and Hyundai chose not to install those anti-theft mechanisms, leading to a crime crisis plaguing the country.

“Now we have this video comes out and it exposes a weakness in the KIAs and the Hyundais, and now we can’t keep up with business,” said Dow.

Dow showed News10NBC’s Deanna Dewberry how easy it is for thieves to steal a KIA or Hyundai. After breaking the steering column, thieves simply insert a USB port into the ignition to start the car. It has left those vehicles extremely vulnerable to theft, and Dow has seen lives turned upside down.

“I mean they’re victimized,” said Dow referring to his customers whose cars have been stolen. “We’ve had people who’ve lost their job because they can’t get to work.”

So now Dow’s business has changed. He usually doesn’t deal directly with customers. Instead, Dow is hired by other repair shops for his very specific skills. But desperate KIA an Hyundai owners have been passing Dow’s name around on social media. Dow says he’s repaired as many as 400 KIAs alone. And each car comes with a heartbreaking story. It’s not work he relishes.

“If it went away, I would be happy,” said Dow. “It doesn’t mean that much to me money-wise. It’s bad money. It’s not good. People are suffering.”

Dealerships have been taking months to get KIAs and Hyundais repaired because steering wheel parts are on back order. But Dow doesn’t depend on the manufacturer. Instead, he sources parts from all over the country. Bob has given News10NBC permission to share his number here: 585-831-3732.

But he cautions he’s incredibly busy, so there may be a wait.