Posted by Jiaqi Liu.
In recent years, the popular social media app, Tik Tok, has gained a strong foothold in the digital sphere. From cute puppy videos doing tricks, to pranks and trendy dance challenges, Tik Tok has become a platform where one can learn about almost anything and everything, including how to steal a car.
Groups of people around the United States, who have dubbed themselves the “Kia Boys,” have made viral videos that show how easy it is to carjack Kia and Hyundai vehicles with a USB cable and a screwdriver. According to an article by Rebecca Bellan, a writer at TechCrunch, ever since the “Kia Challenge became a trend, police in several cities have reported some serious car theft stats.” In fact, there was a 767% increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts. As a result, a national class action lawsuit against Kia and Hyundai was filed in federal court in Orange County, California on September 21.
The lawsuit alleges that “Kias built between 2011 and 2021 and Hyundais built from 2015 to 2021 that were equipped with traditional key engines, rather than keyless fobs, were ‘deliberately’ built without engine immobilizers.” These inexpensive and common devices are meant to prevent cars from being hot-wired and stolen. The shocking factor is that every carmaker over the last 20 years has this device installed. Hyundai and Kia declined to comment during the announcement of the lawsuit. Additionally, TechCrunch mentions supply chain issues stemming from the Tik Tok challenge.
A Forbes article, Kia, Hyundai Offer Owners Security Kits, Locks After Targeted Car Thefts, includes an updated statement from Hyundai Motor America. Hyundai notes that “Unfortunately, our vehicles have been targeted in a coordinated effort on social media.” Kia also acknowledged that “no car can be made completely theft-proof,” but the company is concerned about rising thefts in certain areas.
As a solution, since October 8, Hyundai started selling a Compustar Firstech glass-break sensor security, which costs customers an additional $170 for the kit and installation fees. Nevertheless, both Kia and Hyundai said in an updated statement that the companies are looking to update their software to prevent theft, according to the previous Forbes article.
On a personal note, the main issue is, how ethical are Kia and Hyundai’s action in protecting their consumers? I mean, for the average middle class person, a car might not be expensive. But think of the single parents working double shifts, the teenagers who were finally able to buy their first car, or people who need a car to be able to work. For those people, getting their car stolen, not receiving support from the company, and then having to pay additional fees like $170 is almost ridiculous! Additionally, since only older versions of Hyundai and Kia cars were deliberately built without engine immobilizers, demographics who cannot afford newer versions are placed at a higher risk. Also, not to mention that Hyundai and Kia did not do their “due diligence” or, perhaps simply did not want to install the necessary devices to protect their consumers. Lastly, aside from monetary damages that can exceed $10,000, potential physical and psychological effects could arise from the shock of a theft.
Jiaqi is a public relations major, Seton Hall University, Class of 2023.