Kia, Hyundai sued after viral TikTok causes increased thefts • TechCrunch

Things I Learned About TikTok: The hole in a spoonful of pasta is a serving of spaghetti. What to do when a debt collector comes knocking. How to hot-wire a Kia using a USB cable and screwdriver.

Oh yes, you read that right.

A trending TikTok challenge that advertises a technique to steal certain makes and models of Kia and Hyundai vehicles made vehicle thefts soar across the country, according to reports from different police departments.

Now, Kia and its parent company Hyundai are being sued by pissed-off victims.

On Wednesday, a nationwide class action was filed against the automakers over a defect that set the challenge. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Orange County, California, argues that Kia’s built between 2011-2021 and Hyundai’s built between 2015-2021 equipped with traditional key motors, rather than keyless remotes. , were built “deliberately” without “engine immobilizers.” This seemingly critical, inexpensive and very common device is intended to prevent cars from being wired and stolen. they used it, yet Kia and Hyundai didn’t, hence the easy passage of the car by children.

Kia and Hyundai declined to comment on the pending litigation, but said immobilizers became standard on their vehicles after November 1, 2021.

Since the “Kia Challenge” started appearing on TikTok and then on YouTube in July, police in several cities have reported some serious car theft statistics. In St. Petersburg, Florida, more than a third of all auto theft could be linked to the challenge, according to a CNBC report. In Chicago, that number hit 77%, which is a 767% increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts, according to community counseling by the Chicago Police Department who linked the thefts to the TikTok challenge.

The lawsuit claims that Kia and Hyundai had previously examined the effectiveness of the construction with engine immobilizers and decided against it, “clearly valuing profits with respect to the safety and protection of its customers. Additionally, the lawsuit argues that automakers have not even made an effort to warn customers of the risk of theft by young people seeking street cred on social media.

“With the massive increase in publicity for the defect, the thefts are unlikely to stop without the active intervention of Kia or Hyundai,” the lawsuit reads. “An entire criminal ecosystem has materialized; exacerbated by thefts only further fueled by TikTok, videos and memes that promote criminal behavior. “

A little dramatic, but seriously, how embarrassing it is to know that your car was stolen, not by someone who perhaps needed to sell it for parts and feed their family, but by your local Kia Boys branch – the name nice for groups of young people taking advantage of their TikTok knowledge for unbridled joys?

Although the fact that many of these thefts were recorded on video and posted online should make them easier to find, plaintiffs argue that repair costs are often substantial. TikTokers have to get into cars first, which means breaking a window and jumping off the steering column, not to mention collateral damage from joyride, which can exceed $ 10,000 according to the suit. The lawsuit claims that the challenge has even led to problems in the supply chain – parts needed to repair any salvaged vehicle have been delayed due to high demand.

Hyundai said it will begin selling and installing security kits that are supposed to protect against the method of entry thieves use to enter vehicles at Hyundai dealerships across the country. The automaker is also working with police departments to make steering locks available.

Aside from the funny nonsense of this situation, these car thefts have real consequences on people’s lives. Stefania McQuarrie, one of three plaintiffs named, said she woke up on the morning of September 11 to find that her 2015 Kia Optima had disappeared from her driveway in Davenport, Florida, leaving her unable to get to work, resulting in the loss of her car. his job as a housekeeping supervisor. The car was later found on the edge of a highway, unable to leave, and it is assumed that it was a total loss.

MLG Attorneys at Law, the self-defense firm that filed the complaint, did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for information on how many other victims joined the class action. The plaintiffs seek compensation for pecuniary damage and fair compensation on their own and “all other people and entities nationwide who have purchased or rented 2011-21 Kia vehicles or 2015-21 Hyundai vehicles equipped with traditional key ignition systems.

For its part, TikTok has a policy that asks users not to post, upload, stream or share content that promotes vandalism or property damage. So, if you’re also looking for an instructional video on how to hot-connect one of these now infamous vehicles, you’re out of luck. Instead of instructional videos, you’re more likely to find evidence of the aftermath, including videos of the damage done, PSAs from worried citizens, and tips on how not to get your car stolen by wandering Kia Boys.

TikTok did not respond to a request for comment.

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