Latest TikTok Challenge Creates Wave of Car Thefts

By Richard Dahl on September 20, 2022

TikTok has long been a magnet for young daredevils.

The Milk Crate Challenge enticed people to climb tall stacks of crates; the Blackout Challenge lured participants to hold their breath until they black out.

These challenges resulted in several injuries and deaths. The latest troubling TikTok challenge, however, poses a different kind of risk for participants: the risk of engaging in blatantly criminal activity.

It is called the "Kia Challenge." The challenge encourages people to film themselves breaking into Kia and Hyundai cars with key-based ignition systems by smashing the rear window, starting the engines with a simple USB cord, and taking the cars for a joy ride.

Lawsuits Are Mounting

The challenge first appeared about two years ago in Milwaukee and has spread across the country. Cities are reporting skyrocketing break-ins and thefts of these cars, and class-action lawsuits in at least seven states contend that these cars contain security flaws that make them easy to steal.

  • On Sept. 2, a St. Paul, Minnesota, man filed a class-action lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai, saying key-based models contain a "significant defect" that makes them susceptible to theft. According to police, 18 Kias and 31 Hyundais were stolen in St. Paul in all of 2021. As of mid-July this year, those numbers jumped to 256 Kias and 212 Hyundais.
  • Two weeks earlier, three residents of Columbus, Ohio, filed a class-action lawsuit against the two carmakers, contending that the vehicles are defective because they lack engine immobilizers that prevent the cars from starting without a key.
  • An Independence, Missouri, attorney filed a class-action lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai in July on behalf of residents in Missouri and Kansas. The lawsuit alleges that the carmakers intentionally didn't install anti-theft devices to save money.

In St. Louis, the thefts have gotten so bad — more than 1,200 Kias and Hyundais were stolen by mid-August this year — that the city is considering a lawsuit of its own.

What Owners Should Do

Kia and Hyundai say all their 2022 models include the immobilizers as standard equipment. But officials say that people who own 2011 or newer Kias and 2015 or newer Hyundais should take precautions to discourage thefts. These measures include:

  • Park in well-lit areas
  • Use a steering-wheel lock
  • Consider purchasing an alarm system
  • Watch for any suspicious activity, especially at night

The lawsuits contend that the cars don't comply with federal safety standards because they don't prevent the cars from being started when the key is removed. Plaintiffs say Hyundai and Kia should refund the purchase prices of the cars, compensate customers for other losses, and repair the cars if necessary.

Kia and Hyundai deny that the cars are not complying with federal safety standards, but they are providing steering wheel locks for police departments to distribute in several cities. Hyundai also says it is making a security kit available for purchase and installation at dealerships starting Oct. 1. The kits "target the method of entry thieves are using to access these vehicles" and will cost in the range of $75 to $150.

If you have a key-operated Kia or Hyundai, it will be wise to take the steps listed above to decrease the likelihood of theft. You should also see if you are in a state where a class-action lawsuit has been filed, so you can add your name. It may be worth it.

Copied to clipboard