- In the last three years, thefts of Kia and Hyundai cars have increased by more than 1000% in the US.
- The trend has been linked to viral TikToks exposing a key security flaw in the cars.
- The manufacturers issued software updates to attempt to remedy the situation, but the thefts have continued.
Thefts of some Kia and Hyundai cars have surged in the US in recent years following a series of social media posts that exposed a key security flaw in the cars.
In the first half of 2023, theft insurance claims for Kias and Hyundais were 10 times higher than in the first half of 2020, CNN reported, citing data from the Highway Loss Data Institute.
The rise in thefts began after videos went viral on social media showing how some Kia and Hyundai models could be hijacked using only a USB cord, as Business Insider previously reported.
Kia models from 2011 to 2021 and Hyundai models from 2015 to 2021 were missing electronic immobilizers — an anti-theft device that uses a unique chip in the key fob to unlock the car.
Without an immobilizer, thieves could easily unscrew the steering column in the cars, insert a USB into the ignition, and drive away.
In 2015, 96% of vehicles from other manufacturers had immobilizers as standard, but only 26% of Kia and Hyundai cars did, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) said in a report.
The “Kia Challenge” videos exposed this security flaw to car thieves, who posted videos of themselves taking joyrides in stolen vehicles and who became known as “Kia Boys.”
Hyundai and Kia tried to remedy the situation early last year by rolling out free software updates to more than 8 million cars.
Both companies also issued steering wheel locks to affected owners, Ars Technica reported.
Nevertheless, IIHS spokesperson Joe Young told Global News that the frequency of theft claims in the US for Kia and Hyundai vehicles from January to June 2023 was almost seven times higher than that for other makes.
Kia and Hyundai did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for comment.