Does anyone wake up in the morning and think, “Gee. I hope my car gets stolen today.”
It's certainly not what was on my mind the day my 2015 Hyundai Sonata was stolen. That morning, I was actually thinking about whether I would get off work early enough to make it to the Nation's Giant Cheeseburger joint near my apartment in time to partake in their weekly drink discount special. I like a good chocolate malt with my bacon cheeseburger and fries on a Wednesday night.
While I did get off work in time to make it over to Nation's – my car had been stolen, thwarting my meal plans.
Upon investigating what happened, I realized that I'd become victim to an issue affecting a growing number of Hyundai and Kia owners: “Kia Boys” thefts.
What Are “Kia Boys” Thefts?
The “Kia Boys” are reported teenagers who steal cars, predominately Kia's and Hyundai’s made between 2011 and 2021.
They've allegedly stolen tens of thousands of cars since the pandemic using a “hack” circulating TikTok demonstrating how to tear apart the vehicle's steering wheel column and start the car with a USB-A plugin.
The United States does not have laws requiring automakers to install immobilizers in their vehicles that would prevent cars from being started when the smart key is not present. (Well, that's not very smart on the part of automakers, is it?)
Is anyone wondering why they're called the “Kia Boys” and not the “Kia Men?” The answer is simple: adolescents. Many of these thieves are not yet old enough to drive, and are the ones taking on this “TikTok challenge.” After they break into the cars, they often post videos of themselves breaking into and stealing these cars on social media. The best criminals now post the evidence of their crimes on social media.
So basically, my car and tens of thousands of others have all been stolen so pre-teens can up their social media cred.
How Are Hyundai and Kia Responding?
They're offering customers steering wheel locks as one form of theft deterrent. Okay. Fine.
But the question is now: how effective are these steering wheel locks?
According to a YouTuber who specializes in lockpicking, the answer is these locks aren't that great.
Utilizing a basic lockpicking device known as a key jiggler, which can be purchased online for around $30, the YouTuber picked the steering wheel lock in under 60 seconds.
But if a car thief doesn't wish to mess around with a key jiggler, they can also dismantle or cut the steering wheel to remove the lock.
So, as far as effective deterrents go, the steering wheel lock offered by Hyundai and Kia is little more than an unintentional joke.
However, for those unsatisfied with being offered a steering wheel lock, Hyundai and Kia also provide a free software upgrade that installs a tech-based immobilizer into their vehicle's computer.
There have been a number of lawsuits in cities where the “Kia Boys” strike most frequently against Kia and Hyundai, but the two companies are encouraging cities to strike down these lawsuits over their anti-theft technology in their cars.
Only time will tell if there will be a silver lining in all these thefts down the line.