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Car theft seems like such an extreme crime. Despite the increase in this particular crime over the last few years, it still feels like a ‘90s crime for some reason, like stealing a stereo or something. Unfortunately, car theft isn’t a crime from a bygone era. It is alive and thriving today, and Hyundai and Kia are being targeted with particular vigor. Even more frustrating is the role social media plays in the whole thing. 

2022 Kia EV6 interior
2022 Kia EV6 interior | Kia

Why are Kias and Hyundais getting stolen so often? 

When was the last time you saw a new car with an actual metal key? It’s been a while. The move to key fobs was, in many ways, a way to deter car theft. According to The Family Handyman, key fobs use a computer chip that communicates with a chip in the car that the car is good to start. Most cars with key fobs have an engine immobilizer that prevents the engine from turning unless that specific chip is present. 

However, it turns out that some late-model Kia and Hyundai cars were made without said immobilizer, making “hotwiring” these cars possible and seemingly easy. In fact, the problem is so focused that in Milwaukee, 57 percent of the cars stolen in 2022 were Kias and Hyundais

What is the “Kia Challenge” 

police investigating
Police investigating dealership car theft | Colin McConnell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

We have mentioned this TikTok “challenge” in the past. The idea is that with little more than a USB cable, you can crack open many Kia or Hyundai models and bypass the need for a key fob. While word of a car with a weakness like this might slowly spread via word of mouth in years past, now spreads like wildfire with a strong tailwind. 

Groups of teens calling themselves the “Kia Boyz” and other such alike not only steal cars in droves but film themselves doing it for social media and gain huge followings. This trend isn’t your typical hysteria; police departments around the country report higher thefts of these models and often find the TikTokers guilty. 

What year Kias and Hyundais are vulnerable?


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Although many Kias and Hyundai with fobs can still be hit, the main focus of the trend are Hyundai models made between 2016 – 2021, and Kias made between 2011 – 2021 still with traditional keys but also have a chip, according to Forbes. 

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) reports that Kia Rios, Sportages, and Hyundai Accents recently made their Top 20 list of stolen cars. The Kias and Hyundais now share the same air as more traditional targets like Dodge Challengers and Honda Civics. 

How to protect your car? 

So far, there aren’t many solutions other than traditional methods like using a club or other steering wheel locks. Still, the best way to protect your car is always to keep it locked, park in a well-lit area, and use car covers. Anything that makes your car slightly more annoying to steal might make all the difference.