NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Millions of Hyundai and Kia owners are on alert for increased thefts since a viral TikTok trend showed users how easy it is to steal these specific cars.
Carfax is partnering with Hyundai and Kia to offer free fixes for the nearly five million owners nationwide who are still in need, including 116,000 Tennesseans who drive the affected models.
About 88,000 cars still need to be fixed in the Metro Nashville area.
“We’ve definitely seen a spike in Kia and Hyundai thefts due to the trend, ‘the Kia boys’ trend, on social media right now,” said Sgt. Erik Nash of the Metro Nashville Police Department’s Auto Theft Unit.
The “Kia Boys” trend on TikTok showing users how to break in and steal Hyundais and Kia’s has led thieves to steal a Hyundai Tuscon last month from a Hendersonville apartment complex, according to Hendersonville police.
News 2 obtained police surveillance footage from Taco Bell on Dickerson Road that showed the dark-colored Hyundai. Detectives said the man in the car seen at the drive-through window was one of the car thieves.
In Nashville, Metro police reported a 200% increase in stolen Hyundais and Kias compared to last year; nearly 800 have been stolen in 2023.
“We’ve had 796 Kia’s and Hyundai’s stolen using that method. Probably over half of them have been stolen using the ‘Kia boys’ method,” Nash said.
The Auto Theft Unit said since the beginning of the year, they also received reports of about 214 attempted break-ins on these specific cars.
“It exploits a design flaw in those makes and models where basically you can peel the column off of the steering wheel and use a USB charger to plug it into a metal fob that’s sticking out. You can plug that USB charger on there and start the car,” said Nash.
The editor-in-chief at Carfax, Patrick Olsen, said the issue stems from Hyundai and Kia failing to equip 2010-22 models with an anti-theft device, an immobilizer, which prevents cars from being started without a key in the ignition.
“Carfax is publishing warnings and updates on their vehicle history reports for all of these vehicles that will tell the owner, ‘Hey, you need to get this fixed.’ So they can go to the dealership; they can get the work done absolutely for free,” Olsen said.
In response to the theft increase, both automakers are offering free steering wheel locks or a free software upgrade to help prevent thefts.
“All we’ve heard from law enforcement is that this remains a concern. Any consumer with one of these affected vehicles should first call their local dealership. It doesn’t need to be the dealership you bought it at. Go to any local Hyundai and Kia dealership and see if their vehicle identification number gets flagged as needing that work,” Olsen said.
According to Olsen, it takes about an hour to get this work done at no cost to the car owners.