Thieves across the country are stealing Kia and Hyundai vehicles in under a minute, taking advantage of design flaws, forcing owners to resort to an old fashioned steering wheel lock kit or anti-theft device to keep their vehicles safe.
Thieves bust a window and remove part of the steering column’s cover, exposing the ignition. They break the ignition cylinder off and start the vehicle with a flathead screwdriver or USB plug-in. The method works on 2011-2021 Kias and 2016-2021 Hyundais that use a steel key, not a fob and push-button start. These models lack engine immobilizers — devices that don’t allow the car to start without the correct smart key present.
The increase in thefts was inspired by a Tiktok challenge.
A Kia spokesperson says the thefts are most prevalent across the Midwest, with Charlotte, N.C., police reporting a 346% increase from the same time frame last year. LAPD reports that Kia and Hyundai thefts account for 20% of vehicle thefts in the city, up from 13% last year.
Several class action suits against the companies have been filed in Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Car owners allege a failure to disclose design defects that make the cars easy to steal. Now, despite admitting the problem, the companies still “refuse to fix them” or “compensate consumers,” the Iowa suit reads.
“Offering [a security kit] and then charging them to install it is not acceptable,” said Jeffrey Goldenberg, an attorney in a five-plaintiff suit of mostly Ohio residents filed earlier this month.