OREGON, USA — A popular Tik Tok trend has resulted in class action lawsuits being filed against KIA and Hyundai. In a viral post on the platform a user asked two masked and hooded men to explain how they steal the cars. The duo, since dubbed "The KIA Boyz," explain how they can steal a brand new KIA or Hyundai in less than 10 minutes — using nothing but a screw driver and a USB charging cable.
Since the video was uploaded, countless owners of the South Korean made vehicles have been victimized. Residents from Wisconsin filed a suit in 2021, and since then vehicle owners from Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and Texas have joined on.
The plaintiffs in the case allege that the companies knowingly produced vehicles that are "easy to steal, unsafe and worth less than they should be."
Portland Police Bureau statistics show how big the problem is, locally. In July 2021, theft victims reported a total of 18 stolen Kias and Hyundais. In July 2022, that number more than quadrupled to 84.
“With everything else going on, nobody needs this,” said Laura Hall, whose 2016 Kia Soul was stolen from her north Portland home on Aug. 10. She said crooks took it from the front of her house on North Detroit Avenue.
“In the span of just a few minutes someone broke the rear window and took the Kia … it appeared to be sort of a team of people working on this."
Hall compared security notes with her neighbors and said it appeared those who stole her car were driving two white Kia Souls.
“We found that multiple people in the neighborhood had had Kias stolen within 24 hours and several of them were white Kias,” said Hall.
Hall's car was later found ditched about a mile from her home. She said it was out of gas, missing a car seat, its steering column had been dismantled, and the words “Kia Boys” were scratched into the dashboard and the driver’s side door.
In response to the nationwide problem, KIA released a statement saying:
"KIA America is aware of the rise in vehicle thefts of a subset of trim levels. All 2022 models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the year or as a running change. All KIA vehicles for sale in the U.S. meet or exceed Federal motor Vehicle Safety Standards."
One suit filed in Southern Iowa District Court claims that the companies “admit there is a theft and safety problem with these vehicles but refuses to fix them, compensate consumers or otherwise take actions” to remedy the issue.
However, it is important to note that only vehicles with physical keys can be stolen using this method. Models that have "touch to start" features or digital keys are not affected.
According to court documents, attorneys for the auto makers claim that "warranties do not cover situations in which a vehicle owner or lessee simply prefers an alternative material or an alternative design, as a different preference is not a defect — the so-called defect at issue here — the possibility of theft — is simply not covered by either Kia or Hyundai’s express warranty."
The issue is caused by a lack of an "immobilizer system" which is a piece of hardware that keeps the engine from starting unless the proper key is recognized. This means that mainly 2011-2021 KIA's and Hyundai's manufactured between 2015 and 2021 are being targeted.
Both KIA and Hyundai claim that any model manufactured after 2022 is equipped with the immobilizer system.