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If you own a Hyundai or Kia vehicle or know someone who does, it’s like they’re worried about car theft. Unfortunately, the rise of the Kia Boys following the criminal social media trend has many worrying about anti-theft integrity. Hyundai Motor Company, parent to Kia Corporation, is in hot water over its treatment of the nationwide issues that now involve 8.3 million cars. Attorneys general across the country are begging federal authorities to get involved, leaving many asking the following four questions.

1. Why do Hyundai and Kia cars built before November 1, 2021 not have engine immobilizers?

The reason why a wide range of Hyundai and Kia cars built before November 1, 2021, don’t have engine immobilizers is because the anti-theft feature was built-in to the push-button start system. Base models and a few mid-range vehciles didn’t have them as standard equipment. Only the pricier models did. In a letter to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration), California Attorney General Rob Bonta, speaking for nearly two dozen other heads of state legal affairs, is calling for federal action.

“A review of publicly available complaints in NHTSA’s database underscores the damage this has inflicted on vehicle owners,” the political contingent asserted. “Many of whom are burdened with significant out-of-pocket costs and delay to repair their stolen vehicles (if successfully recovered), or to obtain alternative means of transportation—not to mention the disruption to daily life caused by having one’s car stolen.”

To them, the absence of engine immobilizers in cars is tantamount to a “manufacturer defect.” Many are now speculating that Hyundai did not include them in base model cars to cut costs. But not anymore.

2. Why was there a midcycle shift on November 1, 2021, to include immobilizers?

Hyundai is in hot water over its treatment of the Kia Boys incidents
Hyundai car dealership sign | Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

New features for cars are debuted when the model year switches over. Typically, the date of this falls sometime in the summer. Yet, things can always be dropped from the lineup at any time. For instance, those suffering from supply chain issues, but they’re usually never added—unless there’s a safety issue.

According to a Hyundai press release detailing the model-year 2022 Accent, it was a carryover with everything but an “immobilizer standard on all trims; both remote Keyless Entry and Proximity Key.” But they also say “Timing TBD” for the updates. If Hyundai wasn’t including engine immobilizers via push-button start systems in all their cars, why the sudden change? Was there a focus group, a study indicating it’s what customers wanted, or maybe a realization of something?

3. Why was there not a TSB until late?

The onslaught of Kia Boys car thefts began sometime in 2022. However, no one heard a peep out of parent company Hyundai until March 21, 2023. Only then did the automaker release a technical service bulletin (TSB).

TSB 23-01-014H-2 from the NHTSA asserts that “Hyundai has launched an anti-theft software upgrade and window decal campaign.” Campaign 993 is the company’s delayed response to the Kia Boys car thefts, which led to three and four-digit increases in stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

4. How come 15% of Hyundai and Kia cars can’t receive anti-theft updates?


8 Major Cities Fed up With Kia Boys Car Theft Crime Spree Suing Hyundai

In the aforementioned letter, it’s noted that “Hyundai has acknowledged that approximately 15% of the affected vehicles cannot accommodate the software updates, and Kia has also confirmed that some unspecified number of affected vehicles cannot receive the updates.” Low-balling the figure, that’s approximately 1,245,000 Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

For those that cannot be updated, there’s no telling what the solution will be. The NHTSA has yet to issue a recall, and Hyundai won’t say why they won’t take the update. Presumably, Hyundai’s steering wheel lock quick-fix could come in handy. They gave over 26,000 to local law enforcement agencies in the most affected cities as their first mitigation tactic.

Kia Boys car theft targets

There is a large swath of 2010s Hyundai and Kia cars vulnerable to Kia Boys car thefts. However, only the following are getting the software updates in June 2023, according to AP:

Hyundai modelModel yearsKia modelModel years
Elantra GT2013-2020Optima2011-2020
Santa Fe2013-2022Sedona2011-2021
Santa Fe Sport2013-2018Seltos2021-2022
Santa Fe XL2019Sorento2011-2022
Veloster2012-2017, 2019-2021
Genesis Coupe2013-2014

The above vehicles are “about 70% less likely to be stolen compared to vehicles without immobilizers,” according to a California Central U.S. Court District filing. Considering how this incident unfolded and continues to unfold, there’s no telling how many will be stolen by the Kia Boys.