LAKE COUNTY, Ind. - It’s a TikTok trend and challenge that started in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has now spread all over the U.S. — stealing Kia and Hyundai cars by breaking the steering column and using a USB cord to drive away.
On July 21, 2022, Calumet City police put out a warning, saying thieves have figured out a way to bypass the security features and steal the car, or leave the vehicle damaged.
"This is pretty much just hot wiring a car with no wiring required. They just really dropped the ball, in security, in this regard," said David Young, a software and car analyst. "In any other vehicle, turning the key would not give you the desired results of it starting."
Kia models from the year 2011 to 2021 are impacted, and Hyundai models from 2015 through 2021.
A class action lawsuit claims that both automakers didn’t install immobilizers in their older model vehicles because it was too costly.
"There's a code within your key, those two have to match," said Young. "If there’s no immobilizer in place, the simple mechanics of turning the key will start the vehicle."
Both carmakers admit to the problem and made changes to their 2022 models to prevent this.
Kia said in a statement:
"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. Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact the Consumer Assistance center directly at 1-800-333-4542."
Hyundai also released a statement.
"Hyundai Motor America is concerned with the rise in local auto thefts. The safety and well-being of our customers and the community is and will remain our top priority. These vehicles meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and engine immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles. Hyundai customers who have questions can always contact the Hyundai Consumer Assistance Center at 800-633-5151."
Still, Young says there’s something small and low-tech you can do to stay protected.
"Put a club on your vehicle, something that can deter a lot of this," he said.
Police are telling drivers to lock their doors, park in a well-lit space near cameras, keep valuables out of the vehicle, and put the car alarm on.