- Across the US, a problem with some Kia and Hyundai keys is making the cars targets for thieves.
- Police say social media challenges on Tik Tok and YouTube are encouraging people to steal the cars.
- Both Kia and Hyundai are aware of the problem and are offering steering-wheel locks as one solution.
Thieves are targeting Kia and Hyundai cars across the country, and law enforcement says it’s because social media challenges are pointing out a glitch in the cars.
Some Kia models built between 2011 and 2021, and some Hyundai models built between 2016 and 2021 have a key issue making them easy for theft.
According to The Wall Street Journal, these models are easier to steal because they use traditional keys, and the cars don’t have a chip that would prevent the vehicles from starting when there’s no key in the car.
A press release from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office warned people about the rise in thefts. Since July 1, the sheriff’s office saw 642 reports of Kia and Hyundai thefts, compared with 74 a year ago.
“The increases are believed to be connected to the sharing of videos on social media that demonstrate how to start these vehicles without a key,” the press release said. “Thieves appear to be targeting unoccupied vehicles that require a physical key, not a starter button.”
A trend on Tik Tok and YouTube is teaching people how to break into these cars using a screwdriver and a USB charging cable, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The viral videos came from a group called the “Kia Boyz” from Milwaukee. The city’s police chief, Jeffrey Norman, told the Journal that he first noticed the trend there in 2020, during the shutdowns sparked by the pandemic.
Law enforcement took action by increasing its presence, warning people, and giving away devices to help protect the cars from theft. In Milwaukee and in Cook County, Illinois, law enforcement agencies are giving out car stickers that would allow investigators to track and stop the cars.
According to police data obtained by the Wall Street Journal, through the end of August, Milwaukee’s Kia and Hyundai thefts were down 22% and 36% respectively. By contrast, in the first eight months of 2021, thefts were 183% higher than they were a year earlier, the newspaper reported.
In August, the St. Louis Police Department saw 393 reports of theft and attempted theft for Hyundai cars, and 269 for Kias, the Post-Dispatch reported, adding that Dan Isom, interim public safety director, said Hyundai and Kia cars made up almost 77% of all the cars stolen that month.
A letter from city counselor Sheena Hamilton blamed the two car manufacturers for endangering the city, and threatened legal action against the car companies if they did not help stop the problem.
“Kia and Hyundai’s defective vehicles have caused a public safety crisis in the city, endangering the health, safety, and peace of all those who live, work or visit the city,” Hamilton said in the letter. “Your companies bear the responsibility to mitigate the public nuisance your negligence has created for the city and its residents.”
Automakers offer steering wheel locks
Spokespeople for both Hyundai Motor America and Kia America expressed concerns about the auto thefts and the use of social media to target vehicles from both car manufacturers that don’t have engine immobilizers. Both emphasized that cars from both companies “meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.”
“In order to assist customers with earlier model year vehicles without an immobilizer, Hyundai has been working with and will continue to support local police departments to make steering wheel locks available for affected Hyundai owners,” a Hyundai spokesperson told Insider.
They added that the company has a security kit that will protect against the thefts becoming available on October 1.
“While no car can be made theft-proof, criminals are seeking vehicles solely equipped with a steel key
and “turn-to-start” ignition system, “a Kia spokesperson told Insider.” The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and “push-button-to-start” system, making them more difficult to steal. “
The Kia America spokesperson added that the company has provided free steering wheel locks to law enforcement in cities being highly impacted by the thefts.