(CTN News) – Hyundai and Kia have reached a $200 million settlement in connection with a class-action lawsuit arising from a rash of car thefts sparked by a viral social media challenge on TikTok.
Hundreds of car thefts have been reported nationwide as a result of the so-called “Kia Challenge” on social media, including at least fourteen reports of accidents and eight fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
It has been reported that thieves known as “the Kia Boyz” have been posting instructional videos on YouTube and TikTok about how they can bypass the security system of vehicles with tools as simple as a USB cable to bypass the security system of vehicles.
There is a report that many Hyundai and Kia vehicles manufactured between 2015-2019 are missing electronic immobilizers that prevent would-be thieves from simply breaking into the vehicle and bypassing the ignition to complete the theft.
Nearly all vehicles from the same period produced by other manufacturers are equipped with the feature as standard equipment.
A settlement has been reached with the makers of approximately 9 million vehicles that do not have push-button ignitions and anti-theft immobilizers.
Additionally, the companies offered free software updates for the purpose of extending the duration of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to one minute, as well as requiring a key to be inserted into the ignition switch to turn on the vehicle.
According to Hyundai And Kia Motor North America’s chief legal officer, Jason Erb, “We appreciate the opportunity to provide additional support to our owners who have been targeted by criminal activity.” “We continue to place a high priority on the safety of our customers.”
Statistics from individual cities provide a sense of how widespread the trend has become, but there has not been a comprehensive national accounting of the number of Hyundai and Kia vehicles stolen.
In Milwaukee, for instance, 469 Kias and 426 Hyundais were reported stolen in 2020.
According to NPR, the number of Kias and Hyundais spiked the following year to 3,557 and 3,406, respectively.
Hyundai and Kia have made uneven attempts to resolve the problem. It was announced last year that automakers would charge owners at least $170 for security kits to resolve this issue.
However, installation and labor could increase these costs to $500. Individual customers were eventually reimbursed $300 by the company.
Hyundai and Kia also offered wheel locks as a means of preventing thefts to some owners. Approximately 26,000 wheel locks have been distributed by the companies since November 2022, according to the NHTSA.