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Kia and Hyundai thefts have skyrocketed across the country, with some major cities reporting increases of more than 300% over the past two years, and police are blaming a TikTok and social media trend.
Since 2021, TikTok and social media users are posting videos under the hashtag “Kia Boyz,” teaching people how to start Kia or Hyundai vehicles without keys by using the tip of a phone charger or USB cable, prompting juveniles across the country to try and steal those vehicles.
“It’s becoming a game even though there is nothing funny about it,” George Glassman, president of the Glassman Automotive Group in Detroit, told FOX 2.
Detroit Police Department Lt. Clive Stewart told the outlet that kids “get in with their buddies” in the stolen vehicles “and they ride around in them.”
TIKTOK CAR THEFT CHALLENGE: CHICAGO AREA SEES 767% INCREASE IN HYUNDAI, KIA THEFTS
Now, state and federal lawsuits against the two vehicle manufacturers are piling up.
One class-action lawsuit filed in Milwaukee last year by Barton Legal states that a defect in defendants’ Hyundai and Kia vehicles made them “easy to steal,” “unsafe” and “worth less than they should be” if they did not have the defect. Since then, plaintiffs have filed class-action lawsuits in at least seven other states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Texas.
TIKTOK CAR THEFT CHALLENGE: LA POLICE SEE 85% INCREASE IN KIA, HYUNDAI THEFTS IN 2021
The issue stems from the lack of an immobilizer system in some of the vehicles prior to the 2022 model year, mainly 2011-2021 Kias and 2015-2021 Hyundais equipped with ignitions requiring mechanical keys.
“The vehicles are defective in that, among other things, Defendants manufactured and designed them without engine immobilizers, an electronic security device that make it virtually impossible to start a vehicle without a key unless the vehicle’s computer has been altered,” the lawsuit states. “This means that all a thief needs to do to steal one of the Defective Vehicles is remove a thin piece of plastic that covers the ignition column, exposing a fragile component that can also easily be removed, The thief can then stick a USB drive, a knife, or something that fits in the resulting hole to start the vehicle without a key or electronic signal from a key.”
The lawsuit added that “[c]onsidering how many people charge their cell phones in their cars, the necessary instrument needed to steal a Defective Vehicle is usually readily at hand to a would-be thief.”
Illinois authorities recently reported a 767% increase in Hyundai and Kia vehicle thefts in the Chicago area since the beginning of July compared to last year.
HYUNDAI HAS A NEW WAY TO PREVENT ITS CARS FROM BEING STOLEN
“Vehicle theft is up an astounding 767% due to an emerging TikTok challenge,” the Chicago Police Department’s 15th District said in an Aug. 24 community advisory. “This challenge is a play by play [sic] for young adults on how to steal both Hyundai and Kia vehicles. These automobile thefts are a crime of opportunity and can affect just about any member of the community.”
Charlotte, North Carolina, has recorded a 346% increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts since last year, according to Axios Charlotte. Hyundai and Kia thefts in Omaha, Nebraska, have increased about 600% compared to last year, WOWT reported.
In St. Paul, Minnesota, Kia thefts were up 1,300% compared to last year, and Hyundai thefts were up about 600%, according to FOX 9 Minneapolis. In August, a group of four children between the ages of 14 and 17 stole a 2021 Kia Forte from a rental lot and led police on a highway chase with patrol cars and a helicopter in pursuit. The car crashed as the driver attempted to avoid a stop stick that had been set up in the road, and the group tried to flee on foot before they were apprehended.
In St. Louis, which has seen an approximate 1,000% increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts compared to last year, according to KSDK, Mayor Tishaura Jones and Director of Public Safety Daniel Isom sent a letter to Hyundai and Kia executives saying that the companies have caused a “public safety crisis” in the Missouri city.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt pushed back, writing on Twitter, “St. Louis has a violent crime problem. What’s causing crime in the city? The Mayor’s war against the police? The prosecutor letting criminals run wild? Evidently city “leaders” think it’s….the cars. Yes—car manufacturers are to blame not criminals You can’t make this stuff up.”
Hyundai Motor America spokesperson Ira Gabriel told Fox News Digital in a statement that it “is concerned about the recent rise in auto thefts of certain Hyundai model vehicles.”
“While all of our vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, unfortunately, our vehicles have been targeted in a coordinated effort on social media. Criminals are targeting our vehicles without engine immobilizers. Immobilizers became standard on all vehicles produced after Nov. 1, 2021,” Gabriel said.
To help Hyundai owners whose vehicles do not have 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,” Gabriel continued. The company is also working with a Compustar “security kit that targets the method of entry thieves are using to access these vehicles.” The security kit will be available for purchase and installation beginning Oct. 1.
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Kia did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Fox News Digital, but the automaker told FOX 28 in a statement that “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.”
“All 2022 Kia models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the model year or as a running change,” the statement adds. “Kia America has provided steering wheel lock devices at no cost to law enforcement in affected areas to deter vandalism and theft. That effort will continue in close coordination with local police departments for distribution to concerned owners of Kia vehicles not originally equipped with an immobilizer.”
TikTok has said that it does not condone videos about stealing Kia and Hyundai vehicles, which violate the video app’s policies and will be removed if found.
Fox News’ Gary Gastelu contributed to this report.
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