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Last month, nearly two dozen attorneys general penned a letter teamed with public criticism against Hyundai and Kia. Surges in thefts nationwide due to ‘Kia Boyz’ social media stunts have left vehicle owners reeling. Hyundai and Kia have been slow to address issues with millions of cars spanning a decade of model years. But now, the Korean manufacturers are giving eligible customers free steering wheel locks to mitigate lefts.

Why are Hyundai and Kia cars being stolen?

Roughly two years ago, an unfortunate trend took off on the popular social media app TikTok. It wasn’t the latest and greatest teenager dance but a how-to guide on stealing cars, particularly Hyundai and Kia cars. Videos show individuals gaining access to the inside of the vehicles, removing the steering column, and dismantling the ignition assembly. A USB cable can then be put in the ignition tumbler, turned, started, then the internal steering wheel lock is released.  

Hyundai has already offered anti-theft software upgrades to one million vehicles. However, millions more affected vehicles are pending the upgrade, which is due in June. State governments have fallen short of civil action, but they are getting tired of owners’ vehicles being broken into and stolen with such ease.

What Hyundai and Kia models are being stolen?

Forbes reports that affected Kias include the following vehicles built between 2011 and 2021:

  • Forte compact sedan
  • Niro crossover SUV
  • Optima midsize sedan
  • Rio subcompact sedan
  • Soul crossover SUV
  • Sportage crossover SUV
  • Telluride midsize SUV

Affected Hyundais include the following built between 2016 and 2021:

  • Accent subcompact sedan
  • Elantra compact sedan
  • Palisade midsize SUV
  • Santa Fe compact SUV
  • Sonata midsize sedan
  • Tucson compact SUV
  • Veloster compact coupe
  • Venue compact SUV

The issue is the lack of an immobilizer in Hyundai and Kia vehicles built before the 2022 model year. All vehicles produced afterward have a push-button start system with the feature. In a press release, Hyundai said a software upgrade would be available for eligible remaining affected cars by June 2023.

Are steering wheel locks a waste of money?

Hyundai and Kia cars are now receiving free steering wheel locks
Hyundai dealership flags | Michal Fludra, NurPhoto via Getty Images

The companies have distributed at least 26,000 steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies across the country. According to Bloomberg, Hyundai has decided to distribute free steering wheel locks in addition to anti-theft software upgrades. Before, dealerships charged Hyundai and Kia customers for the software and the installation, but that has changed.

The software upgrade, as are the steering wheel locks, are now free of charge. Hyundai and Kia will also reimburse anyone who has already bought one. But will the physical immobilizer work?

It will undoubtedly make Hyundai and Kia cars harder to steal now that the USB trick won’t work. Nevertheless, it does give drivers yet another thing they must do that’s through no fault of their own. Moreover, will it be enough for insurance companies to reinsure the aforementioned models in all areas of the U.S.?


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