What is the problem?
Cities across America are reporting a 1,000% increase in Kia car thefts due to a series of TikTok videos on under the hashtag #KiaBoyz.
Since the videos were posted in 2021, a new generation of young car thieves have learned just how easy it is to steal a Kia or Hyundai and go for a joyride — often using nothing but a USB phone charger.
How Easy Is It To Steal a Kia?
Car thieves can get into a Kia by breaking a back window to avoid setting off the alarm. Once they are inside the car, it only takes a few seconds to start the car and drive off.
The thieves simply rip off a thin plastic covering the steering column, remove a flimsy part on the ignition, insert a USB cord (or other device) into the hole, and start the car. Thieves also sometimes use a screwdriver, pocket knife, or even a USB phone charger that is already plugged into the victim’s car.
Is My Car At Risk?
Your Kia might be at risk of being stolen if it uses a mechanical key ignition (not a “push-to-start” or key fob) and was built before 2022, including:
- Kia Forte
- Kia Rio
- Kia Optima
- Kia Stinger
- Kia Soul
- Kia EV6
- Kia Niro
- Kia Seltos
- Kia Sorento
- Kia Sportage
- Kia Telluride
- And more
What is the Problem?
Many Kia vehicles with model-years before 2022 do not have an engine immobilizer, which is a device that makes it nearly impossible to start a vehicle unless an authorized key is inserted into the switch.
In November 2021, the government mandated that all new vehicles must be equipped with engine immobilizers to prevent easy car thefts.
What Is Kia Doing to Help Owners?
Not much. So far, Kia has failed to issue a recall or offer to install engine immobilizers into the affected vehicles.
Beginning October 1, 2022, Hyundai (the parent company of Kia) will offer a security kit that will be available for purchase and installation at Hyundai dealerships and Compustar authorized installers across the country.
Hyundai has also provided some police departments in high-risk cities with “The Club,” which is a steel bar that locks onto the steering wheel, but their supply of free locking devices has quickly run out as Kia owners learned about the risk of thefts and rushed to secure their vehicles.
Kia Car Theft Class Action Filed in Minnesota
In September 2022, a class action lawsuit was filed against Kia and Hyundai by LaShaun J., a man from St. Paul, Minnesota, who awoke one morning to find that his 2019 Kia Sorrento had been stolen.
According to the police, the thieves used a flathead screwdriver to pry off the ignition column and start the car. They also smashed out the driver-side window and caused significant body damage to the car.
The lawsuit alleges that certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles are defective because they do not include an engine immobilizer.
“Thieves only need to gain access to a vehicle, and once inside, strip the ignition column and insert a screwdriver, knife, or even a USB cord to start the vehicle,” according to the lawsuit.
Despite the 1,300% rise in vehicle thefts in St. Paul and other cities, Kia has not issued a recall or offered to install engine immobilizers.
The Kia Car Theft Class Action Lawsuit was filed on September 2, 2022 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota — Case Number 0:22-cv-02164-ECT.
Woman Has Kia Stolen Twice in Two Months
Fox 9, a local news station in Minnesota, shared the story of Lynda Pierce, a woman whose Kia was stolen twice in a 2-month period. She had to pay two auto insurance deductibles on top of vehicle repairs. Authorities told Fox9 that Kia vehicles “are easier to steal because they lack an electronic security device called an engine immobilizer.”
Death of 70-Year-Old Woman Linked to Stolen Kia Sportage
In July 2022, 70-year-old Phoua Hang was killed in a crash after the car she was in was hit by a Kia Sportage, which was stolen out of Minneapolis. Police in St. Paul, Minnesota said the thefts are at “epidemic” levels, with 212 Hyundai thefts and 256 Kia thefts this year alone. The Deputy Sheriff said:
“It’s really shocking how many times a day we’re seeing reports of Kias and Hyundais, specifically, driving through neighborhoods, high speeds of 70, 80, 90, 100 miles an hour through residential streets four or five times an hour, (in) different cars.”
Police Departments Warn Kia Owners About High Risk of Car Theft
In response to the 1,300% rise in car thefts in St. Paul, Minnesota Undersheriff Mike Martin warned: “The Kias and Hyundais have what I call a design flaw that allows them to be stolen easier. All they have to do is break a window and get in and within seconds those cars can be compromised and be started with a USB port or even a pocket knife.”
Some Police Depts. Offer Free Steering Wheel Locks
Some local police departments have even offered free giveaways of steering wheel locks like “The Club” to Kia owners, but their supply has quickly run out as people learned about the defect and rushed to get a lock to prevent thefts.