What are Kia/Hyundai Doing About TikTok Car Thefts?


In the past year, an unsettling trend has emerged on social media platforms, particularly TikTok, where individuals, known as the “Kia Boys,” have been showcasing how to effortlessly steal Hyundai and Kia vehicles. These demonstrations have not only led to an alarming spike in car thefts but also compelled insurance companies to revise their guidelines, with some even declining to insure these vehicles. This article aims to help you understand the origins of this issue, explain its implications, discuss the proactive steps being taken by Hyundai and Kia to rectify the situation, and provide comprehensive guidelines to help consumers safeguard their vehicles.

The TikTok Phenomenon and its Aftermath:

The wave of Hyundai and Kia car thefts can be traced back to a viral TikTok challenge known as the “Kia Challenge.” This trend involved individuals breaking into Hyundai and Kia vehicles and using a USB cord to start the cars without the original keys. This was made possible due to a security vulnerability present in certain models of these vehicles that were not equipped with an engine immobilizer—a device that prevents a vehicle from being started without a code transmitted from the vehicle’s smart key. The absence of an immobilizer made these vehicles an easy target for thefts, leading to a spike in stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles across the country.

Vehicles at Risk:

A wide range of Hyundai and Kia models, manufactured without an engine immobilizer, have been affected by this issue. Hyundai models at risk include the Accent (2011-2022), Elantra (2011-2022), Santa Fe (2019-2022), and Tucson (2010-2022), to name a few.

On the Kia side, affected models encompass the Forte (2011-2021), Optima (2011-2020), Sorento (2011-2022), and Soul (2010-2022), among others.

If you’re not sure if your Hyundai or Kia is affected, contact the dealership for clarification.

Hyundai’s Countermeasures:

Hyundai has taken decisive action to curb these thefts by launching a free anti-theft software upgrade. This upgrade is designed to prevent vehicles from being started using the method popularized on TikTok and similar platforms. The upgrade was introduced on February 14, 2023, for nearly four million Hyundai vehicles and was rolled out in phases through May. It should be noted that Hyundai vehicles with a push-button start or those manufactured after November 2021 are not susceptible to this theft method as they are equipped with an engine immobilizer.

Kia’s Response:

Kia, in collaboration with Hyundai, initiated a software fix in February to prevent further thefts. However, despite these efforts, the issue is yet to be completely resolved as of the most recent updates. For more information, please visit their site here.

Joining the Legal Battle:

A class action lawsuit has been filed in response to this crisis, contending that Hyundai and Kia opted to sell vehicles without immobilizers to reduce costs, thereby neglecting their responsibility to ensure adequate theft protection and security. This lawsuit seeks to hold the automakers accountable for their design and manufacturing decisions that have increased the susceptibility of these vehicles to theft. Individuals affected by this issue and interested in joining the class action lawsuit can visit the Hagens Berman law firm’s website for additional information and updates about the case.

Legal Recourse and Consumer Rights:

Owners of affected Hyundai and Kia vehicles have legal recourse available to them. A class action lawsuit has been initiated, arguing that the automakers knowingly chose to sell the affected vehicles without an immobilizer in an effort to reduce costs. The lawsuit contends that by neglecting to ensure their vehicles had adequate theft protection and security, Hyundai and Kia have essentially rendered vehicle owners vulnerable to the simplest of crimes. Individuals affected by this issue can join this legal battle, holding these automakers accountable for their design flaws and manufacturing choices, thereby increasing the likelihood and rates of theft.

Protecting Your Hyundai or Kia Vehicle:

While Hyundai and Kia are taking steps to rectify this issue, it’s also essential for vehicle owners to take proactive measures to safeguard their cars. Here are some general tips that can help prevent theft:

  1. Always Lock Your Vehicle: Even if you’re stepping away for just a moment, always make sure your vehicle is locked.
  2. Park in Well-Lit Areas: Thieves often target vehicles parked in dimly lit or isolated areas. Whenever possible, park in a well-lit area or a secure garage.
  3. Install an Immobilizer or Car Alarm: If your vehicle isn’t already equipped with one, consider installing an immobilizer or a car alarm. These devices can deter thieves and make it more difficult for them to steal your vehicle.
  4. Keep Valuables Out of Sight: Leaving valuables in plain sight can attract thieves. Always keep your belongings out of view or take them with you when you leave your vehicle.
  5. Regularly Check for Software Updates: Stay updated with the latest software upgrades provided by Hyundai or Kia to ensure your vehicle has the most recent security features.

Additional Information

If you still have questions or need additional information, contact your local dealership. They’ll be able to give you more guidance and direction based on your specific vehicle.

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