Viral video kicks off surge in Kia and Hyundai thefts
A video that went viral on the popular TikTok platform has led to a nationwide surge in thefts of certain Kia and Hyundai vehicles. The original video and others like it demonstrated a quick way to bypass the ignition key cylinder and start the car using a USB drive as a key. The original video has been taken down by TikTok, but by then the information had been disseminated widely.
Portland police have reported 144 Kias and 81 Hyundais stolen in June and July of this year. That represents a 269% increase in Kia theft, and a 153% increase for Hyundai. Portland police posted a video on the topic at
Portland Police Lieutenant Nathan Shepherd posted a video on the topic here.
Vulnerability is limited to Kia products made between 2011 and 2021 and Hyundai products from 2016-2021 that use a plain metal key to start the vehicle. Vehicles that are equipped with a push-button starter are not subject to this exploit because they rely on a radio confirmation of an encoded key.
Kia and Hyundai are taking steps to respond to the phenomenon, including mid-year model changes to include an engine immobilizer on all Kia vehicles. Hyundai has been installing immobilizers since the end of 2021. The companies are also making aftermarket steering wheel locks (similar to The Club, which has been sold for decades) available through law enforcement agencies. Hyundai has also identified an aftermarket engine immobilizer solution. "While all of our vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, unfortunately, our vehicles have been targeted in a coordinated effort on social media," said Ira Gabriel, senior group manager for Corporate and Marketing PR at Hyundai Motor America. "Criminals are targeting our vehicles without engine immobilizers. Immobilizers became standard on all vehicles produced after November 1, 2021."
Officials at Kia America issued essentially the same message. "While no car can be made theft-proof, criminals are seeking vehicles solely equipped with a steel key and 'turn-to-start' ignition system," stated James Bell, head of corporate communications for Kia America. "The majority of Kia vehicles in the United States are equipped with a key fob and "push-button-to-start" system, making them more difficult to steal. All 2022 Kia models and trims have an immobilizer applied either at the beginning of the model year or as a running change."
Both Kia and Hyundai are asking concerned vehicle owners to contact their customer assistance centers.
"Hyundai will provide additional details soon," Gabriel said, "and customers who have questions can always contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151."
"Kia customers with questions regarding their specific vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance center directly at 1-800-333-4542(4Kia)," Bell stated.
More information can be found here.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.