A TikTok trend has caused a lot of trouble for Kia and Hyundai, and the leading Korean automakers are seeking relief wherever they can find it. They have asked U.S. courts to reject lawsuits from 17 U.S. cities, where officials have blamed Kia and Hyundai for a multi-year wave of car thefts.
The two automakers in question ran into trouble in 2021, when young car thieves — some of whom hailed from Midwestern American cities like Milwaukee and Columbus — made off with Kias and Hyundais in record numbers. Using techniques broadcast on TikTok, the so-called “Kia Boyz” took advantage of substandard security features in mid-2010s vehicles.
In 2019, Milwaukee reported 3,500 car thefts; by 2021, that number rose up to 10,500 thefts, with two-thirds of the crimes targeting Kias or Hyundais. Some of the Kia Boyz were caught on camera in the midst of their attempted thefts.
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@nojumperA woman caught a kia boy red-handed trying to jack her car 😳
In 2023, the automakers developed new security features in hopes of curbing the Kia Boyz trend. Unfortunately, by the time the summer rolled around, the thefts showed no signs of abating, and the legal actions began. Kia and Hyundai paid $200 million to settle a class action lawsuit whose plaintiffs included many Kia Boyz victims.
The lawsuits filed by municipalities, however, have not yet been resolved. Officials in cities like New York, Cleveland, San Diego, Milwaukee, Columbus, and Seattle have argued that Kia and Hyundai are responsible for the crime wave because they failed to install anti-theft technology in their vehicles.
In response, Kia and Hyundai described the car thefts as “an unprecedented criminal social-media phenomenon.” The automakers believe that city governments also bear responsibility for the Kia Boyz movement due to their “lax policing and prosecution policies” and “budgetary decision-making.” Based on that line of reasoning, Kia and Hyundai are appealing for the 17 civic lawsuits to be thrown out.
In addition to security upgrades, Kia and Hyundai owners can also utilize wheel locks to prevent future thefts. Kia and Hyundai have pledged to hand out free wheel locks at dealerships.