17 States Call for Hyundai and Kia to Issue Recall on Vehicles Due to TikTok Thefts

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By Car Brand Experts

The ongoing story of the “Kia Boys” TikTok trend is evolving, with attorneys general from 17 states now urging the recall of millions of Hyundai and Kia vehicles. Several months back, TikTok users witnessed the thefts of particular Hyundai and Kia models lacking push-button ignition. Thieves demonstrated that these vehicles could easily be stolen using only a screwdriver and a USB cable. Despite software updates from Hyundai and Kia to prevent future thefts, authorities from 17 states believe more action is necessary, pushing for a mandatory recall of the affected cars from these two Korean automakers.

Some Hyundai and Kia models sold during the years 2011 to 2022 were distributed without engine immobilizers, making them susceptible to theft. Engine immobilizers function through a unique chip placed in the vehicle’s steering column and another in the key. These chips communicate when the key is turned, enabling the car to start. However, the absence of immobilizers in certain models made them easy targets for theft, to the extent that some insurance companies refused new policies for these cars.

In response, Hyundai has introduced a complimentary software solution aimed at thwarting potential thefts by the so-called Kia Boys. The “ignition kill” software halts the engine from starting once the car is locked using the key fob. Upon unlocking the vehicle with the fob, the engine can be started anew. For Kia models unable to receive this software update, a free steering wheel lock will be provided to prevent unauthorized individuals from driving off with a stolen vehicle.

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However, according to California’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, these measures fall short of expectations. Bonta spearheads a group of attorneys general who penned a missive to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), pressing for a compulsory recall.

“The fundamental issue revolves around Kia’s and Hyundai’s oversight in equipping many of their vehicles with standard safety features, jeopardizing vehicle owners and public safety,” stated Attorney General Bonta in a recent press release. “We are urging the federal government to mandate these companies rectify their error through a nationwide recall to assist us in our ongoing mission to shield the public from these hazardous vehicles.”  

In contrast, NHTSA posits that a federal recall may not be viable in this context since thefts are criminal infractions falling under the jurisdiction of local law enforcement agencies.

As Hyundai’s and Kia’s software updates do not constitute formal recalls, they are not subject to the same monitoring procedures, making it challenging to ascertain the number of impacted vehicles still in circulation. “Hyundai and Kia are not mandated to inform owners as they would in a recall scenario,” shared Michael Brooks, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety, with NBC 5.

Presently, no federal recall has been initiated for any affected Hyundai or Kia models; however, the NHTSA is engaged in discussions with both automakers. Hyundai assures that its software remedy is applicable to nearly all four million impacted vehicles and is collaborating with AAA to extend coverage to new customers owning affected models.

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