New York City became the latest city to file suit against Hyundai and Kia over a rash of vehicle thefts that went viral on TikTok and other social media platforms in recent years, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In its lawsuit, the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York claims the automakers were guilty of negligence by failing to include anti-theft devices in their cars that would have made them much harder to steal.
The so-called “Kia Challenge” has led to hundreds of car thefts nationwide
The so-called “Kia Challenge” has led to hundreds of car thefts nationwide, including at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Thieves known as the “Kia Boys” would post instructional videos on YouTube and TikTok about how to bypass the vehicles’ security systems using tools as simple as a USB cable. Other videos would feature joyrides in stolen vehicles and the resulting property destruction.
The thefts are reportedly easy to pull off because many Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2015 and 2019 lack electronic immobilizers that prevent would-be thieves from simply breaking in and bypassing the ignition. The feature is standard equipment on nearly all vehicles from the same period made by other manufacturers.
According to the US attorney, Kias and Hyundais represented 19.3 percent of reported car thefts so far this year in New York, despite only making up 2.9 percent of registered cars. The city said 977 Hyundai and Kia vehicles were reported stolen in the first four months of 2023, up about 660 percent from the same period a year ago.
New York City joins California, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and other jurisdictions that have filed suit against Kia and Hyundai. The companies recently agreed to a $200 million settlement stemming from a class action lawsuit brought by people who’ve had their vehicles stolen.