A bizarre TikTok challenge is fueling the theft of certain models from both Korean brands.
As a bizarre TikTok trend continues to spread across the country, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has issued a warning to Hyundai and Kia owners, warning them that their vehicles may be at risk. The controversial social media challenge - made popular by a group known as the "Kia Boys" - has led to a surge in thefts across the country. LA is just the latest area to be affected.
In Los Angeles, stolen Kia and Hyundai models account for 20% of all stolen vehicles in the city. This is up from 2021's figure of 13%, reports KTLA. The local news agency reached out to Lindsay Reeves, who shared her recent ordeal. "It was a nightmare, I was so confused when I got my car stolen," explained the owner of a 2015 Kia Soul.
Security footage shows just how easy the Korean vehicle was to steal. A previous-generation Elantra can be seen pulling up and, in a matter of seconds, the thief hopes out, breaks into the car, and drives off.
This doesn't seem to affect models equipped with push-button start. Vehicles with traditional keys are being targeted. In the video above, one brazen criminal demonstrates just how easy it is to appropriate a Hyundai or Kia. A simple USB cable and screwdriver are the only tools required for an aspiring car thief.
The LAPD has warned owners of this, noting that criminals target various makes and models produced between 2010 and 2021. Among the security tips, Los Angeles police recommend owners of affected models should use a steering wheel lock, install a tracking device, or even fit the vehicle with a kill switch.
But why are these specific vehicles so easy to steal? Oddly, some models weren't equipped with engine immobilizers as standard. Kia and Hyundai have since made this basic feature standard on every 2022 model, but it may be too late. The city of Milwaukee, for example, has already threatened legal action.
Both automakers have been trying to deter the situation and help affected customers. In a statement sent to KTLA, Kia said it has "provided steering wheel lock devices at no cost to law enforcement in affected areas to deter vandalism and theft." Hyundai has also gone down this route but added that it "has identified a Firstech / Compustar security kit that targets the method of entry thieves are using to access these vehicles."
These attempts to address serious issues don't seem to be working, though. In the video above, another resident's Hyundai Tucson was stolen in broad daylight. Not only does this highlight the bold defiance - or perhaps stupidity - of these car thieves, but also just how easy it can be done. Additional reporting from Fox 2 Detroit's YouTube channel uncovers another downside for affected owners - delayed repairs.
It's not just about stealing the car to strip for a profit, either. After taking the vehicle on a joyride, it is often abandoned - but not before being vandalized. A calling card of the "Kia Boys" is a snapped driver's side seatbelt, among other things.
George Glassman, who owns a Kia dealership in Detroit, told the outlet his service shop has been overwhelmed with theft-related vehicle repairs. Owners have to contend with long wait times, as these in-demand parts face delays. Motor City has had a particularly tough time with Kia and Hyundai thefts; 150 examples were stolen in July alone.
"These kids, they get in with their buddies and they ride around," said Lieutenant Clive Stewart. Like the LAPD, he recommends owners of the affected vehicles invest in a column lock. Lt. Stewart was recently involved in an investigation centered around Dodge SRT Hellcat models, where a trio of youths attempted to steal several examples of the 707-horsepower muscle cars.