You take a major security flaw at a manufacturer and mix it with the stupidity of social networks, and you get a societal problem: the Kia Challenge.
The case dates back to 2021. At that time, users of TikTok, the famous video platform of Chinese origin incriminated for the stupidity it engenders on an entire generation addicted to ephemeral content, show how stealing Hyundai and Kia vehicles in baffling fashion, simply by using a USB-A port located around the steering column after removing the ignition switch, the element where you usually slip the key to start a car. How is it possible ? Most models made between 2011 and 2021 were sold without an engine immobilizer, a technology that prevents the engine from starting with a key not recognized by the system. In the United States, approximately 9 million Hyundai and Kia models of model years 2011 through 2022 were manufactured without an immobilizer system.
*For laymen, GTA is one of the most famous video games in the world. Meaning “Grand Theft Auto”, it was initially based on vehicle theft.
Tik Tok, the real cretin factory
Inevitably, this was to be expected: the “buzz” and the virality of these platforms generated the “Kia Challenge”, on the model of the countless viral challenges, each one more stupid than the other, carried out by many users who hope that their life will become exciting by accumulating views and likes. Result: thousands of group cars are stolen just to make a bad buzz, especially since tutorials have also flourished in the content to facilitate the offense. In addition to the theft itself, the Kia Challenge is also dangerous since many of the perpetrators of these flights have then most often sought to film themselves at high speed, and fatal accidents have occurred.
The phenomenon has taken on unprecedented proportions. The City of Chicago has identified more than 8,800 flights in 2022, or 41% of all car thefts reported in the city over the year, while the two brands represent only 7% of the car fleet. The year 2023 will be, according to the municipality, a disaster, since the thefts of Kia and Hyundai have already exceeded the figure recorded for the whole of 2022… In Seattle, thefts exploded by 620% between July 2021 and July 2022. In New York, authorities have listed 977 thefts in the first four months of 2023 alone, a record increase of 660% compared to the same period in 2022. In Milwaukee, the epicenter of the Kia Challenge, it’s the record: + 2,500% flights in 2023or approximately 16 Kia and Hyundai stolen per day.
Which answer ?
Caught in the turmoil, Hyundai and Kia attempted to respond, first by providing or refunding purchases of steering locks to owners of vehicles who could not receive an update to the flaw, which did not obviously not curbed the phenomenon. The manufacturers then introduced a free software update in early 2023, but 2 million vehicles are not eligible for this update and the effectiveness of the update is also in question. The theft figures seem to speak for themselves.
Class action and big money
But now, after the wave of thefts, it is the anger that now comes. Today, some major American cities, tired of having to chase after thieves, intend to sue the Korean group. New York joined the rumble in June and pulled out all the stops: “By choosing profits over safety and deviating from industry standards by not including engine as a standard safety device, the defendants created and maintained a public nuisance,” the city said in the filing in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Dozens of insurance companies also filed suit. legal action, arguing that the lack of engine immobilizers constituted a violation of federal regulations.
As is often the case in these proceedings where manufacturers can risk very big financially, Kia and Hyundai have offered a financial arrangement as part of the class action brought against them, especially for the owners who are victims, but a US judge has just thrown out the $200 million settlement offered by Hyundai and Kia in compensation for vehicle theft, because the sums seem quite insufficient. We are talking about an amount of up to $6,125 in the event of loss of the vehicle, and up to $3,375 in the event of damage to the vehicle or loss of goods during an attempted theft. Far, especially in the first case, from the value of a large part of the vehicles without a doubt.
In an Aug. 11 letter, attorneys general from six states and the District of Columbia urged the judge to require automakers to install anti-theft technology known as engine immobilizers in all Hyundai and Kia vehicles. subject to theft, possibly in combination with a vehicle buyback program. , instead of updating and cash payments.
Sources: automotive news, NBC NY