For Owners of Some Kias, Hyundais, an Unusual Worry

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It’s one TikTok trend that owners of certain models of Kia and Hyundai vehicles should probably know about. It turns out these models are pretty easy to steal, and videos of teens doing so and going for joyrides have exploded in popularity, reports the Wall Street Journal. Police also say the vehicles are being stolen for use in more serious crimes, and class-action lawsuits have sprang up against the automakers accusing them of selling defective cars. The weird trend affects certain Kias made between 2011 and 2021 and certain Hyundais made between 2016 and 2021.


The problem, as explained at The Drive and Axios, is that these vehicles don’t have a standard anti-theft device known as an engine immobilizer, which prevents a car from starting unless the correct “smart key” is present. These vulnerable models use steel keys instead of a fob or push-button start, the upshot being that thieves can bust in, rip open the steering column, and start the car using some other metal object in under a minute. One popular alternative is a simple USB plug-in, per Car and Driver. A viral YouTube video billed as a documentary about the self-dubbed Kia Boys offers a look.


“It really took off the last two months and now it’s exploded,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart tells the Journal. “I mean, the numbers are staggering.” The county logged 601 Kia and Hyundai thefts in August, up from 58 the same month last year. Similar spikes are being reported all over, including in Atlanta, Seattle, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and on and on. Kia and Hyundai (they share a parent company in Hyundai Motor Group) say the problem is fixed for their most recent models. Both brands say they have provided free wheel locks to owners of vulnerable models, and Hyundai says it will begin offering a security kit next month to prevent the thefts, though owners will have to pay for it. (Read more stolen cars stories.)

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