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There is a disturbing rise in the theft of Kia and Hyundai vehicles. The automakers blame these crime waves on TikTok users gleefully revealing how easy they are to steal. But some owners of stolen vehicles are leveling class action lawsuits against the automaker itself, their lawyers arguing that Hyundai knowingly built less-than-secure cars to cut costs.

Hyundai and Kia thefts are through the roof

A man in a mask using a prybar to open the door of a locked car.
Burglar breaking into a car | Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Back in August 2021, Chicago police received reports of 58 stolen Hyundai and Kia vehicles. Fast-forward to August 2022, and that number has exploded to 601.

Cities all across the country are experiencing similar crime waves, according to the Wall Street Journal. And it all appears to have started on TikTok.

A TikTok video starring the “Kia Boys,” seemingly based out of Milwaukee Wisconsin, shows would-be criminals how to easily steal certain Hyundai and Kia cars. These vehicles are usually this manufacturer’s base trims. For the easy theft “hack” to work, the car must have a traditional steel key, not a key with a chip or a push-button start.

The “Kia Boys” tear the ignition system off of the steering column. Then they use a micro USB charging cable to spin the tumbler and start the car.

Could Hyundai have prevented these thefts?

Several cars loaded on a transport trailer, trees and buildings visible in the background.
Several Hyundai SUVs on a transport trailer | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Why aren’t all new vehicles with traditional keys this easy to steal? Most automakers include a simple chip, even in their most basic steel keys. This chip’s presence deactivates an engine immobilizer and allows the car to start.

CBS Chicago covered thirteen separate class action lawsuits against Hyundai/Kia. These lawsuits seek to compensate the owners of stolen vehicles, arguing that Hyundai/Kia skimped on security to cut costs.

Ken McClain is the lead attorney on Illinois’ lawsuit against Hyundai. He claims, “Kia and Hyundai have known for a long time that their failure to include an immobilizer put their cars at a disadvantage…it affects millions of people, potentially.”

What is Hyundai doing now?

Seoul South Korea's skyline with the twin headquarters of Hyundai and Kia Motors prominent.
The Hyundai and Kia headquarters | SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Buth Hyundai and Kia spokespeople are declining to comment on the claim that their companies knowingly cut corners. The reason? They don’t comment on “pending litigation.”

Both Hyundai and Kia claim that every 2022 and later vehicle will include the important immobilizer device. That said, owners of 2022 Hyundais continue to report their vehicles stolen. There is a good chance that these brand-new Hyundais and Kias are truly easier to steal, but TikTok users swept up by the viral challenge seem to have found a way to defeat the immobilizer.

And what about owners of the most at-risk vehicles: certain base model 2011-2021 Kias and 2016-2021 Hyundais? The automakers are giving wheel locks to police to distribute to concerned Hyundai and Kia owners.

Read about how a stickshift transmission stopped a car theft or watch CBS’ coverage of the lawsuit against Hyundai in the video below:


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