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TikTok challenge triggers car thefts and class action lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai

Amid a rapid proliferation of social media posts offering people advice on how to easily steal a Kia or Hyundai automobile, two Iowans have filed a class action lawsuit against the automakers.

Ann Brady of Polk County and Leah Price of Decatur County are suing Kia America, Inc., Hyundai Motor America and Hyundai Kia America Technical Center. They allege the companies have produced a flaw in their vehicles that makes them “easy to steal, dangerous and worth less than they should be”.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, alleges the companies ‘admit there is a theft and safety issue with these vehicles but refuse to repair them, compensate consumers or take action” to resolve the problem.

The two Iowans are suing on their own behalf and on behalf of a national class of thousands of people who have purchased a Kia or Hyundai in recent years.

Brady claims that at some unspecified time she purchased a 2019 Hyundai Tuscan from Stew Hanson Hyundai in Clive, and it was stolen in July 2022. Price says that in 2017 she purchased a new Kia Sorento from Kia Des Moines then, the following year, bought a 2012 Sorento and a 2016 Sorento from the same dealership.

USB cords used to start cars

According to the lawsuit, one of the reasons older Kia and Hyundai cars can be so easily stolen is that they don’t meet a federal motor vehicle safety standard that requires vehicles to be equipped with a starter system which, once the ignition key has been removed, prevents engine activation and locks the steering column.

In “defective” vehicles, according to the lawsuit, “neither steering nor forward self-mobility is impeded. If so, the vehicles would not be stolen at alarming rates…All that ‘a thief has to do is strip the ignition column, expose a loose piece, then stick (into) a USB drive, knife or other similar tool, to start the vehicle without a key or coded.

The plaintiffs argue that given the number of people who charge their cell phones in their car using an in-vehicle USB cable, the only tool needed to steal a Kia or Hyundai “is usually easily accessible. to any thief”.

Beginning in 2009, the lawsuit alleges that Kia sought to add a vehicle immobilizer to its Amanti line of vehicles, telling the federal government that the device was similar to other devices shown to be reduced theft by 58 to 80%. In 2007, Hyundai launched similar efforts to add an immobilizer to its Azera lineup.

“The defendants are aware of the problems and even claim that they attempted to ‘repair’ their 2022 vehicles to eliminate safety defects,” the lawsuit alleges, “but refuse to do anything about the faulty vehicles of before 2022.”

The Iowa plaintiffs seek reimbursement for all expenses related to their purchase of the vehicles, including the cost of anti-theft devices and increased insurance premiums due to the alleged defects.

The court has yet to rule on the plaintiffs’ class action lawsuit and the automakers have yet to file a response to the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs are represented by Sioux City attorney Jay M. Smith.

‘Kia Challenge’ on TikTok encourages theft

Over the past few weeks, several videos have been uploaded to TikTok, YouTube, and other social media platforms explaining people the best methods of using a USB cord to steal a KIA manufactured from 2011 to 2021, or a Hyundai manufactured from 2015. to 2021.

The videos gave rise to the “Kia Challenge” in which a group of individuals calling themselves the “Kia Boyz” challenge others to steal a vehicle using the USB method while videotaping the theft.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, two teenagers recently recorded themselves stealing a 2013 Hyundai from the Lincoln Children’s Zoo parking lot, according to Nebraska Public Media. Omaha police say 230 Hyundais or Kias have been stolen so far this year, compared to 131 in the first seven months of 2021, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Other cities across the country have reported a similar increase in thefts.

In a written statement, Kia America said it “is aware of the increase in vehicle theft” and says all 2022 models have an immobilizer in place. “All Kia vehicles for sale in the United States meet or exceed federal motor vehicle safety standards,” the company says.

Hyundai Motor America said it was “concerned” about a reported increase in thefts, but that its vehicles “meet or exceed federal motor vehicle safety standards.” The company says engine immobilizers “are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles.”