17 States Demand Hyundai, Kia Recall Cars Over TikTok Thefts

According to 17 different attorneys general, Hyundai’s and Kia’s own software fix isn’t enough.

byNico DeMattia|
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The saga of the "Kia Boys" TikTok trend continues, as attorneys general from 17 different states are now demanding Hyundai and Kia recall millions of cars. Months ago, TikTok was awash with people stealing select Hyundai and Kia models that weren't equipped with push-button ignition, proving they could be stolen with nothing more than a screwdriver and a USB cable. While Hyundai and Kia have issued software fixes to prevent further thefts, 17 different states feel the two Korean brands haven't done enough and want their affected cars recalled.

Certain Hyundai and Kia cars, between 2011-2022 were sold without engine immobilizers, therefore making them easier to steal. Engine immobilizers are simple: they use a chip in the car's steering column and a separate chip in the key, which talk to each when the key is turned, allowing the car to start. However, the models sold without immobilizers were incredibly easy to steal. So much so that certain insurance companies weren't taking new policies on such cars.

Since then, Hyundai has issued a free software fix that should prevent any Kia Boys from stealing its cars. The “ignition kill” software prevents the engine from starting after the car was locked by the key fob. Once unlocked by the fob, it will allow the engine to start up again. In addition, any Kia models that can't get this software retrofitted will be provided with a free steering wheel lock, to prevent any ne'er-do-wells from being able to drive off in a stolen car.

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That apparently isn't good enough, according to California attorney general Rob Bonta. Bonta leads the coalition of attorneys general who wrote a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), demanding a recall.

“The bottom line is, Kia’s and Hyundai’s failure to install standard safety features on many of their vehicles have put vehicle owners and the public at risk,” said Attorney General Bonta in a recent statement. "We now ask the federal government to require these companies to correct their mistake through a nationwide recall and help us in our continued efforts to protect the public from these unsafe vehicles.”  

However, the NHTSA claims a federal recall isn't something that can be implemented in this situation, as thefts are criminal offenses, which are under local police's jurisdictions.

Since Hyundai's and Kia's software fixes aren't official recalls, they aren't monitored the same way and therefore it's hard to know how many affected cars still out there. “Hyundai and Kia will not be obliged to notify their owners in the same way they would if it was a recall,” Michael Brooks, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety told NBC 5.

At the moment, there isn't a federal recall on any of the affected Hyundai and Kia models but the NHTSA is in communication with both brands. However, Hyundai says its software fix is available to almost all four million affected cars and is collaborating with AAA to insure new customers with affected models.

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