State Governments Turn Up the Heat on Kia and Hyundai Following ‘Kia Boyz’ Car Theft Trend
Over the past two years, skyrocketing car thefts have shocked metropolitan areas nationwide, as well as mass incidents of reckless driving. Viral videos on social media show young adults at the wheels of stolen cars, ending all too commonly in police chases and wrecks. But only Kia and Hyundai vehicle owners are victims following the proliferation of a renegade group dubbed the “Kia Boyz.” Following a lack of response from the Korean automakers, state governments are turning up the heat.
Who are the Kia Boyz?
The Kia Boyz aren’t a specific group of people but a brand you live up to. How? Stealing cars—particularly Kia and their mechanical similar corporate cousin Hyundais.
In late 2021, the hashtags #theKiaboys and #Kiaboyz began popping up. Typically, they were attached to videos of young adults driving on sidewalks, running red lights, and other reckless driving leading to high-speed chases. Notably, the source material for these actions was a YouTube video demonstrating how to enter and steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles quickly. The Kia Boyz videos spread like wildfire, as did the instances of car thefts across the country.
Although the group doesn’t have leaders, one self-proclaimed member from Milwaukee will be the first to take responsibility for the wide-ranging thefts. According to FOX6, Milwaukee, police identified Markell Hughes as one of the drivers of the stolen cars—a Hyundai Elantra—in the video. Hughes is also alleged to have stolen half a dozen Kias and Hyundais. The defendant was arrested for two offenses of “take and drive a vehicle without owner’s consent” and “operate a vehicle without owner’s consent-passenger.”
A jury trial was initially set for March, but the court granted a Miranda Motion requested by the defense. The trial will begin in the first week of May. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been stolen since the trend started.
What is Kia and Hyundai doing about stolen cars?
The Detroit Bureau reports that 22 attorneys general nationwide have publicly criticized the Korean automakers for their lack of response to Kia Boyz incidents. Only after major insurance companies declared affected vehicles “uninsurable” Kia and Hyundai launched major software upgrades. However, the updates won’t be available until June.
“The surge in thefts of these vulnerable vehicles has been truly shocking,” said the group letter from 22 attorneys general. Led by Wisconsin Attorney General Joshua Kaul, the contingent has yet to announce any action on the automakers. “More needs to be done so that every current owner can obtain one of these devices at no cost as soon as possible,” they added.” Especially those owners whose cars are not compatible with the software upgrade you recently announced.”
Both automakers are working with law enforcement agencies to provide at least 26,000 steering wheel locks to law enforcement agencies in 12 states. Hyundai will also provide its customers with a window sticker stating the vehicle has anti-theft protection. Subsequent phases to rectify the ongoing issues are said to be rolled out in the next several months.
Are Kia Boyz stealing Kia and Hyundai cars with USB phone chargers?
In a word, yes. It’s effectively the modern version of a screwdriver from yesteryear. The now-removed videos depict miscreants pulling back the steering wheel column cover and dismantling the ignition assembly. A USB cable can then be put in the ignition tumbler, turned, and started, thus releasing the steering lock.
Many Kia and Hyundai vehicles don’t have push-button start systems. It’s not necessarily that the ignition can be taken apart with a traditional ignition key system, but it lacks an immobilizer. These factory-installed theft deterrents won’t allow the car to start if the key isn’t present.
What Hyundai and Kia cars are being stolen?
If you own a Korean brand car, it’s essential to know if you need a wheel lock or an upgrade to dodge the Kia Boyz. But some can’t even be insured anymore. The following are Kia and Hyundai cars deemed “uninsurable” by insurance giants Progressive and State Farm. But it’s limited to certain geographical areas.
Affected Kias include any Forte, Niro Optima, Rio, Soul, Sportage, and Telluride built between 2011 and 2021. Affected Hyundais include any Accent, Elantra, Kona, Palisade, Santa Fe, Sonata, Tucson, Veloster, and Venue manufactured between 2016 and 2021.
Kia and Hyundai vehicles from the 2022 model year to the present have a push-button start system with immobilizers. In a press release, Hyundai said the software upgrade would be available for the remaining affected vehicles by June 2023. The upgrade will be performed at company dealerships and will take less than one hour for installation.