June 17, 2024

Hyundai/Kia USA theft problem: Car theft as a TikTok challenge

Hyundai/Kia USA theft problem: Car theft as a TikTok challenge

Hyundai and Kia are very popular in the United States, albeit involuntarily. Some models from manufacturers can be stolen very easily with a USB cable. Should owners in Germany worry, too?

In the statistics of theft in Germany, the Hyundai and Kia brands have so far been somewhat unclear. In the latest assessment of the German Insurance Association (GDV), which refers to 2020, the Koreans occupied gray midfield positions: in the year in question, only 275 Hyundais and 154 Kias were stolen. The theft rate, which calculates the number of cars stolen against 1,000 registered cars, is a modest 0.2 either way. For comparison: Leader Land Rover comes in at 1.9.

It’s different in the USA: according to media reports, there has been a marked increase in thefts of Hyundai and Kia models in the recent past, even with relatively new cars. This is because some Korean model chains are particularly porous. And this, in turn, leads to another phenomenon: a “challenge” has been created on the social network TikTok, in which young users are often called to break open Hyundai and Kia models and steal them. Local police authorities are also warning against calls to take cars – often risky and dangerous – for flights or even to destroy them.

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Concern about rising domestic car thefts

The method of theft seems too simple to believe: thieves can start cars by simply removing the panel behind the steering wheel with a screwdriver and connecting a USB cable to a certain circuit there. Usually this is prevented by the electronic immobilizer, which must receive a signal from the key as a prerequisite for starting the engine. Therefore, this type of auto theft does not work with cars of other brands.

Meanwhile, the problem has moved to the headquarters of the concerned American importers. “Our vehicles meet or exceed federal vehicle safety standards, and immobilizers are standard equipment on all new Hyundai vehicles,” said a statement from Hyundai USA, reported by US media. Hyundai Motor America is concerned about the rise in domestic car thefts. Kia America reports that all cars of the brand sold in the United States have been equipped with an immobilizer since 2022.

Play it safe with the steering wheel clutch

The same applies to police authorities in some US municipalities. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the trend is believed to have begun, calls have already been made to Hyundai and Kia to bridge the security gap. However, car manufacturers have not done anything yet; Nothing is known about the corresponding summons. Until there is a technical solution, car owners should protect themselves as best they can on their own: Don’t leave the car unattended and don’t leave any valuables or USB charging cables lying in it. If you want to be on the safe side, you have to secure the car the very old school way with the steering wheel clutch.

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Do Hyundai and Kia owners in Germany now have to fear that their cars are easy prey for car thieves? Hyundai Germany reassured: “First of all, this seems to affect models in the US, which usually differ significantly from European models in terms of equipment and sales variants or are not sold in Europe at all,” says the auto-motor- und-sport. de request. The sister brand sees no problem for its customers in Germany: ‘Since January 1, 1998, all newly registered cars in Germany must be equipped with an electronic immobilizer (§ 38aStVZO), preventing the type of unauthorized access indicated in the ‘ says a Challenge spokeswoman. “Blocked.” Kia is also constantly studying new ways to improve vehicle safety.


Cars sold in Germany seem to be better protected from theft: the TikTok challenge hasn’t quite come to it yet. However, German representatives of Korean manufacturers should take a closer look at the GDV car theft statistics mentioned at the beginning: accordingly, Hyundai (plus 52.8 percent) and Kia models (plus 63.8 percent) in 2020 compared to the previous year recorded the largest increases among all Presented brands, so it rose significantly in favor of car thieves. The Kia Stinger was the third most stolen model per 1,000 vehicles (average: 6.7); Hyundai Santa Fe (3.4; 11th place) and Kia Sorento (2.7; 16th place) were well above average.

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Note: In the slideshow at the top of the article, we show you the Kia Telluride, the large seven-seater SUV for the USA, after a 2023 facelift.

opinion poll

Always park your car in the garage.

There is no private security.

I trust the standard immobilizer.


Are the strong increases in the latest GDV theft numbers for Hyundai and Kia models a coincidence, a statistical anomaly or the result of inadequate anti-theft protection despite the mandatory immobilizer? The future must show it. We will continue to follow how the car theft statistics develop in this country with respect to the Korean manufacturers’ chain. Compared to American models, they seem to be better protected from theft. In Germany, the TikTok challenge has not been a problem so far. Hopefully it will stay that way.