It can take less than a minute to steal some Hyundai and Kia models, and it happens all over the country.
Why it matters: The widespread problem is attributed to design flaws in the cars, forcing owners to resort to an old-fashioned steering wheel lock for now if they want to keep their vehicles safe.
- Hyundai tells customers that if they want a specialized security kit to protect their vehicle, they have to pay for it.
- The equipment, an “immobilizer and siren” that “targets the method of access used by thieves,” will be available for Hyundai vehicles from Oct. 1 at an undisclosed price, Hyundai said in a statement.
- Kia says it doesn’t offer a security kit at this time.
How it works: Thieves break a window and remove part of the steering column cover, exposing the contact. They break off the ignition cylinder and start the vehicle with a flat head screwdriver or USB plug-in.
- They are “just the perfect size to fit in the gap,” Sam Hussein, president of auto repair for Metrotech Automotive Group in Dearborn, Michigan, tells TSTIME.
- The method works on 2011-2021 Kias and 2016-2021 Hyundais that use steel key, no fob and push button start. They’re targeting cars that don’t have immobilizers — devices that don’t allow the car to start without the right smart key, according to the automakers.
- Damage can run between $2,000 and $3,000, Hussein estimates. And it may take a while to get the car back, he says, as some parts are on back order due to increased demand.
The Intrigue: Officials link some of the thefts to a trend seen in a viral YouTube video in Milwaukee interviewing members of the so-called “Kia Boys”. They show how they supposedly steal the cars so quickly.
Situation: Some areas say Kias and Hyundais will disappear in greater numbers this summer, including the Midwest, where a Kia spokesperson tells TSTIME the problem is most prominent.
- Detroit had 111 Kias stolen in July and 22 in the first nine days of August, according to police. That’s more than 23 in June and 11 or less in all previous months of 2022.
- Charlotte, NC, police report 156 Kia and Hyundai thefts since June 20, a 346% increase from 35 incidents in the same period last year.
- According to the NICB’s 2021 Hot Wheels report, seven of the top 10 most stolen vehicles in Wisconsin were Kias or Hyundai. But none of those vehicles made the top 10 in the state in the 2020 report.
In the meantime, the automakers are being sued across the country, including a class-action suit involving two plaintiffs in Iowa, a class-action suit in Wisconsin and two class-action cases centering Ohio theft victims, according to court records and law firms.
- Car owners claim they have revealed design flaws that make the cars easy to steal. Now, despite admitting the problem, “they still refuse to fix them” or “compensate consumers,” the Iowa indictment reads.
- “Offer” [a security kit] and then asking them to install it is not acceptable,” Jeffrey Goldenberg, an attorney in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by five plaintiffs from mostly Ohio residents, told TSTIME.
What they say: Hyundai Motor Co., the parent company of both the Hyundai and Kia brands, is aware that its cars have been “the target of a coordinated social media effort,” a statement to TSTIME said.
- Hyundai added that all of its vehicles “meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.” Cars in production now all have the immobilizer which makes them harder to steal.
Worth nothing: The “Kia Boys” influence is far from ubiquitous. Officials in Houston, Austin, Salt Lake City and Richmond, Virginia, tell TSTIME reporters they don’t see this trend.
Zoom in: Richard Eldredge reported that his 2019 Kia Soul was stolen from the parking lot of his Midtown Atlanta apartment building on July 7, he tells TSTIME. The car was found damaged the next day. He is now waiting for parts due to the blockage in the supply chain.
- “Who would have ever thought that a dad drive like a Kia Soul would be the target of teenagers?” said the Atlanta journalist and senior editor at VOX ATL.
- “To be [because it’s] a trend on social media and it’s easy to do. Lamborghinis are a little harder to sell.”
Everett Cook of TSTIME Local edited this story, and Kim Bojórquez, Joe Guillen, Jay Jordan, Joann Muller, Karri Peifer, Asher Price, Katie Peralta Soloff, and Thomas Wheatley contributed.
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